SINGAPORE—At least 18 people were killed in Myanmar, the United Nations said, as security forces began their toughest crackdown yet against protesters who have taken to the streets for more than three weeks to oppose this month’s coup, signaling the military’s growing willingness to use lethal force despite international condemnation.
The deaths occurred Sunday in different cities across the country. In Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, at least three people died from bullet wounds and 16 others were injured, including a 31-year-old man who was in critical condition, according to a senior doctor at Yangon General Hospital who is involved in treating the injured. Four people were also killed in the southern city of Dawei, according to an announcement on military-run TV, which said protesters there hadn’t complied with orders to disperse.
Images of bloodshed, chaos and, in some places, continuing protests flooded social media, capturing scenes that were corroborated by witnesses. Myanmar news organizations posted pictures and videos showing bloodied protesters surrounded by medics, Yangon’s streets filled with tear gas and crowds of men and women, many in hard hats and goggles, scrambling for safety.
The police action on Sunday wasn’t limited to one area or city, beginning early in the morning in many parts of the country and signaling a deliberate effort to use greater force. Myanmar’s military has a history of deadly crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters, including during mass demonstrations in 2007 and 1988.
“We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Human Rights Office said.