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Myanmar Military Used Live Ammunition To Quell Protests


In Myanmar, the protests continue against the military after their coup on February 1. The military's response to protests has been heavy-handed. Scores of people have been killed this week as the military has used live ammunition. We should note that we'll be talking about some graphic descriptions of violence in this story. Michael Sullivan is covering the protests and joins us now. Hi there.


SHAPIRO: It's been more than a month since the coup now. What are the latest developments?

SULLIVAN: The latest developments are the protests continued all over the country again today. And security forces were out again in numbers to disperse the crowds, and they used tear gas and gunfire to do so. But it wasn't as bad as yesterday, when the UN says at least 38 people were killed. In Myanmar's second city, Mandalay, this morning the air force had five of its fighters fly very low over the city several times in formation in a clear attempt at intimidation. Rights groups say more than a thousand people have been detained, including more than half a dozen journalists. And aid groups say at least four children are among the dead.

SHAPIRO: And I understand hundreds of people attended the funeral of one protester who was killed yesterday. Tell us about her.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. She was 19 years old. Her name is Ma Kyal, and she was killed in Mandalay. She was attending one of the protests there when she was shot in the head by security forces. And there are these pictures of her at the protest wearing a simple black T-shirt that read, everything will be OK. And obviously those pictures have resonated. She's the latest symbol of the protesters' defiance, but the first was another 19-year-old woman killed in the capital Naypyitaw a few weeks back, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing. She was just about to turn 20 when she was also shot in the head at her very first protest, and thousands of people turned out in defiance for her funeral. These protesters are not going to be cowed.

SHAPIRO: Now, the coup overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the country. Do we know where she is right now?

SULLIVAN: We don't know exactly, but we know she's still in detention. She has been since the February 1 coup. There was a court appearance earlier this week when she was hit with more charges by the military. Other than that, she hasn't been seen. Most of her top leadership of the party have been detained as well, along with activists and others. And the military also seems to be targeting union leaders and other groups whose strikes have helped slow the economy to a crawl during the past month of protests.

SHAPIRO: What is the international response to all of this?

SULLIVAN: It's been loud and vociferous in the West. There were more U.S. sanctions announced today. There have been sanctions from the U.K. as well but not so much here in Asia, even among Myanmar's ASEAN neighbors - not much unity. But these videos, Ari, that we've been seeing coming out of Myanmar the last few days have been chilling. There's the one of a protester being led away by security forces, then abruptly shot in the back and dragged away by his captors. There's another of some ambulance medics being dragged out of their van and badly beaten with the butts of rifles and a flurry of kicks.

And the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, referenced these images in a video call with reporters yesterday. And she also spoke of this troubling exchange she had with one of the coup-makers when she warned him stronger measures from the international community could be coming if the violence doesn't stop.


CHRISTINE SCHRANER BURGENER: And the answer was, we are used to sanctions, and we survived those sanction time in the past. When I also warned they will go in an isolation, the answer was, we have to learn to walk with only few friends.

SULLIVAN: In other words, they're not backing down at all, and neither are the protesters, Ari.

SHAPIRO: That's Michael Sullivan covering the coup and protests in Myanmar from neighboring Thailand. Thank you.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KYLE DIXON'S "KIDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.
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