Myanmar parliament members removed by the military are exploring whether the International Criminal Court (ICC) can investigate any crimes against humanity committed since the February 1 coup, as more deaths were reported in protests on Friday.
Military and police have used increasingly violent tactics to suppress demonstrations by supporters of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi but that has not put off the protesters, with crowds out again in several towns across the country.
At least one protester was reportedly killed during demonstrations in Aungpan in Shan State on Friday.
In the southeastern city of Dawei, a general strike was dispersed by security forces, and protesters as well as medical volunteers were reportedly detained, according to a social media post on Friday.
Police in Yangon were also forcing people to clear protesters’ barricades on Friday, residents said, as social media posts showed that a sports apparel shop popular among young people was reportedly attacked and burned by suspected government forces.
Demonstrators are also out in the second city of Mandalay, and Myingyan and the eastern town of Myawaddy, posts on social media showed.
The total number killed in weeks of unrest has risen to at least 224, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group said, noting another death in the commercial hub of Yangon and two in the cities of Monywa and Bago on Thursday.
It said 2,258 people have been arrested or charged, with 1,938 still detained or evading arrest.
Myanmar’s United Nations envoy, who publicly broke with the military government, said a committee of overthrown politicians was looking at ways people can be held accountable for violence following the coup.
“The ICC is one of them,” Kyaw Moe Tun told an event in New York. “We are not a state party to the ICC, but we need to … explore the ways and means to bring the case to the ICC.”
In Geneva, UN human rights experts denounced forced evictions, arbitrary detentions and the killings of pro-democracy protesters. They said foreign governments should consider pursuing those responsible for crimes against humanity.
A spokesman from the military government has said security forces have used force only when necessary.
Thuwanna, Thingangyun, Yangon — at 8:30am
— Ro Nay San Lwin (@nslwin) March 19, 2021
Hundreds have fled towns and cities since the coup and are sheltering in areas controlled by ethnic minority militias on the Thai border, an official from one group said.
People have also crossed the western border into India.
Indonesia expresses concern
Security forces have focused on stamping out dissent in the commercial capital, Yangon. But independent broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma reported that thousands of people marched on Thursday in the central town of Natmauk.
The Natmauk protest had a symbolic significance as it was the hometown of Aung San, who led Burma’s struggle for independence from Britain but was assassinated in 1947.
His daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, is also hugely popular for her decades-long campaign for democracy.
The Nobel peace laureate is now detained at an undisclosed location while facing accusations of bribery and other crimes which could see her banned from politics and jailed if convicted. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up.
Western countries have condemned the coup and called for an end to the violence and for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release. Asian neighbours have offered to help find a solution, but Myanmar’s military has shown no sign of seeking reconciliation.
Police in Yangon were forcing people to clear protesters’ barricades on Friday [Stringer/Reuters]
Coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing took part in a video conference with other Southeast Asian defence chiefs on Thursday, his first international engagement since seizing power, state television showed.
During the meeting, the head of Indonesia’s armed forces, Hadi Tjahjanto, expressed concern over the situation in Myanmar, the Indonesian military said on its website. Indonesia’s army ruled for years but later completely withdrew from politics.
Indonesia had led diplomatic efforts in Southeast Asia to resolve the crisis but a March 3 regional meeting it helped coordinate failed to make headway.
On Friday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for democracy to be restored and violence to be halted in Myanmar and for Southeast Asian leaders to hold a high-level meeting to discuss the situation there.
“I will immediately call the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam as head of ASEAN to, as soon as possible, hold a high-level ASEAN meeting to discuss the crisis in Myanmar,” he said in a virtual address.
Brunei is currently chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The European Union is due to place sanctions on individual military figures on Monday and then target businesses they run in what would be its most significant response since the coup.
The EU’s expected sanctions follow a US decision last month to target the military and its business interests. Britain last month froze the assets of, and placed travel bans on three generals.
The army has defended its takeover, saying its accusations of fraud in a November 8 election swept by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election but not set a date.
Information within Myanmar is becoming increasingly difficult to verify after authorities have restricted the internet services that protesters use to organise and post reports and pictures.
About 37 journalists have been arrested, including 19 who remain in detention, the UN human rights office said.