Fierce clashes have erupted between protesters in northern Myanmar and security forces. Footage emerged online showing police opening fire on the crowd. It’s unclear if live rounds or rubber bullets were used.
Dozens of protesters faced off with riot police at a power plant in the city of Myitkyina on Sunday. The city is 1,480 kilometers from the capital, Yangon in the northern part of the country, which has been gripped by protests since the February 1 military coup.
There were reports that the military was also deployed to quash the unrest. The clashes in Myitkyina reportedly ensued after the authorities demanded the company that runs the plant cut off the electricity.
The purported video of the showdown shows demonstrators fleeing in disarray amid a series of loud blasts and flashes.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
There have been conflicting reports on whether live ammunition or rubber bullets were used in the crackdown. Police also reportedly fired tear gas, smoke bombs, and used water cannons to disperse the protesters.
The BBC reported that five journalists were arrested amid the chaos.
Shortly after the events in Myitkyina, monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory reported“a near-total internet shutdown” in the country. The group blamed the outage on the “state-ordered information blackout,” noting that connectivity across the country dropped to 14 percent of normal levels overnight.
Connections were restored around 9am local time [02:30 GMT] on Monday. However, according to NetBlocks, most of the residents still could not access social media.
Over a dozen Western embassies, including those of the US, EU, UK, Canada, Germany, and France, urged the security forces to “refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians,” referring to the detention of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the declaration of a one-year state of emergency by the military as an overthrow of the legitimate government.
“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity. The world is watching,” they said in a statement on Sunday.
The wave of protests – the largest Myanmar has seen since the 2007 crisis – has drawn thousands of people to the streets to demand the release of Suu Kyi and the return of the civilian government to power. The generals declared a state of emergency and detained the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient on February 1, accusing the government of failing to investigate what they called a rigged election in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD) claimed a resounding victory in November.
Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest after police said they found unauthorized walkie-talkies at her home. While her detention was originally set to expire on Monday, her lawyers said she would be remanded till February 17.