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At Least 18 Killed In Another Bloody Day For Myanmar

Demonstrators take shelter and block the road during a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar on Wednesday.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Demonstrators take shelter and block the road during a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar on Wednesday.

Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET

In a day of protests that was among the deadliest in Myanmar since last month's coup, at least 18 people were reportedly killed on Wednesday, a day after Southeast Asian foreign ministers issued a tepid call to end to the violence.

The latest death toll was gleaned from various sources, with Reuters reporting 18, bring the total number of killed in a police crackdown on protesters to nearly 40 since the military seized power on Feb. 1, ousting the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. However, The Associated Press cited reports of as many as 33 people dead, and The Irrawaddy, a news website run by Myanmar exiles, said at least 28 were dead.

On Sunday, the U.N.'s human rights office said it believed 18 people had been killed. At least three others had died previously in the weeks of unrest, as daily protests have been met by police firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds at unarmed demonstrators. The numbers of protesters have remained high despite the crackdown by security forces, the AP reported.

On Wednesday, social media accounts monitoring the violence were again inundated with graphic footage and images of protesters killed and wounded in the violence.

Among the reported deaths were of a 19-year-old female protesters in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar, also known as Burma. She was reportedly shot in the neck. About 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Mandalay, in Myingyan, a 14-year-old boy was also fatally shot.

At least three people were fatally shot on Wednesday in the central city of Monywa, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent television and online news service, the AP said. Monywa has seen large anti-junta protests in recent days, according to the news agency said.

Some on social media, including an account representing Suu Kyi's ousted government, were circulating graphic closed-circuit video of police beating a group of people who were said to be volunteer medical workers aiding injured protesters. NPR has not independently verified the report.

At least eight journalists have also reportedly been arrested while covering the protests. A lawyer for the AP's Thein Zaw said Thein and several others have been charged under a law that criminalizes spreading "fake news," according to the Voice of America.

On Tuesday, foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, called an emergency meeting to address the Myanmar situation. However, the ministers, who met by teleconference, stopped short of issuing a joint statement calling for the release of Suu Kyi. Instead, they opted for a watered-down message from the group's current chair, Brunei.

"We expressed ASEAN's readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner," Brunei said in a statement.

Individually, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore have called for Suu Kyi's release.

The situation in Myanmar has proved a delicate one for the 10-member regional bloc, which includes Myanmar, to navigate. Predominately Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia are among those more willing to condemn Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, which has been accused of atrocities against the country's Rohingya Muslim population. By contrast, Thailand, which is governed by the instigators of a 2014 coup and has also sought to suppress its own anti-government protests recently, has tread cautiously.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet behind closed doors on Friday to take up the Myanmar matter, according to the AP. But veto-wielding Russia and China were likely to insure that no forceful condemnation is produced.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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