A seven-year-old girl has been killed in her home after security forces opened fire in Myanmar’s second-largest city, Mandalay – the youngest victim so far in the military’s violent crackdown against opposition to last month’s coup.
Khin Myo Chit was reportedly sitting on her father’s lap when soldiers entered their home on Tuesday and tried to shoot him, her sister told the Myanmar Now news agency. Two men were also killed in the township, the report said.
Staff at a Mandalay funeral service told the Reuters news agency that the seven-year-old girl had died of bullet wounds in Chan Mya Thazi township on Tuesday.
The military had no immediate comment on the incident.
The generals have accused pro-democracy protesters of arson and violence during the weeks of unrest and said it was using the least force possible to quell the daily demonstrations.
On Tuesday, military spokesman Zaw Min Tun expressed sadness at the loss of life and said 164 protesters had been killed in total.
“They are also our citizens,” he said.
In its March 23 update, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group tracking deaths and detentions in post-coup Myanmar, put the death toll at at least 275, including Khin Myo Chit.
The AAPP said she died after being shot in the stomach. It was not possible to independently verify the information.
“We are horrified that children continue to be among the targets of these fatal attacks on peaceful protestors,” said Save the Children, which estimates at least 20 children have been killed in the violence.
“The safety of children must be protected under all circumstances and we once again call on security forces to end these deadly attacks against protesters immediately.”
On Monday, a teenage boy – also from Mandalay – was killed.
Tun Tun Aung was inside his home in a “squatters area” and was not involved in the protest when he was killed. The boy was buried on Tuesday.
The military has faced international condemnation for staging the coup that halted Myanmar’s slow transition to democracy and for its lethal suppression of the continuing protests.
It has tried to justify the takeover by saying last November’s election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide, was fraudulent – an accusation the electoral commission has rejected.
Military leaders have declared a year-long state of emergency and promised a new election but have not set a date.
The military government’s Zaw Min Tun blamed the bloodshed on the protesters and said nine members of the security forces had been also killed.
“Can we call these peaceful protesters?” he said while showing a video of factories on fire. “Which country or organisation would regard this violence as peaceful?”
He said strikes and hospitals that were not fully operating had caused deaths, including from COVID-19, calling them “undutiful and unethical”.
On Wednesday, demonstrators began a “silent strike”, part of an attempt by the civil disobedience movement to find new ways of protesting that do not put people at risk of violence.
Tens of thousands of businesses and other establishments were forced to shut as a result of the strike, leaving many cities and towns at a standstill, as Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since February 1, was due to appear for a hearing at a Naypyidaw court.
Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said it was not certain the proceedings would go ahead because of problems with video conferencing caused by the military’s prolonged internet shutdown.
“The hearing may not commence… the court has no wifi,” he told AFP news agency.
“If she can not participate in the video conference there won’t be a hearing.”
He added that there was a large police presence outside the court gates and lawyers were not being allowed into the building.
Khin Maung Zaw said he has still not been able to speak to Aung San Suu Kyi privately. The 75-year-old faces a number of criminal charges, including for owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event in 2020.
She is also being investigated on allegations of corruption.
In a more than three-hour news conference on Tuesday, the military spokesman also accused media of “fake news” and fanning unrest. He said reporters could be prosecuted if they were in contact with the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw or CRPH, as the remnants of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government are known.
The military has declared the CRPH an illegal organisation and said membership is punishable by death.
The spokesman claimed the NLD had created hundreds or even thousands of extra ballots in numerous townships by inventing voters, including in Aung San Suu Kyi’s own constituency. Videos of people saying they were paid by NLD representatives were also shown.
The NLD has denied any attempt to rig the election.
Also shown was video testimony of former Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein saying he visited Aung San Suu Kyi multiple times and gave her money “whenever needed”.
The European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Monday against individuals involved in the coup and the repression of the demonstrators.
The 11 people the EU named include General Min Aung Hlaing, the military’s commander-in-chief and now the head of the military government.
The EU already has an arms embargo on Myanmar and has imposed sanctions on some senior military officials since 2018.
Washington had already penalised Min Aung Hlaing and the measures announced on Monday expanded the names on the list.
Some of Myanmar’s neighbours also spoke out against the violence.
“We believe violence against unarmed civilians is inexcusable,” Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Kuala Lumpur after talks with his Malaysian counterpart.
The military government said it is cooperating with five neighbouring countries – Bangladesh, China, India, Laos and Thailand – and values and respects their words. China has considerable business interests in Myanmar and is a member of the UN Security Council with veto power.
Source : AL JAZEERA AND News Agencies