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Myanmar faces more protests after United Nations envoy urges Security Council action

"We must denounce the actions by the military," said U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener.
Image: Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes, in Yangon
Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes, in Yangon, Myanmar on Saturday.via Reuters

YANGON, Myanmar — Security forces in Myanmar again used force Saturday to disperse anti-coup protesters, a day after a U.N. special envoy urged the Security Council to take action to quell junta violence, which this week left more than 50 demonstrators dead and scores injured.

Protests were reported Saturday morning in the country's biggest city, Yangon, where stun grenades and tear gas were used against demonstrators. On Wednesday, 18 people were reported killed there.

Protests also took place in several other cities including Mandalay, the second-biggest city, Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin and Myeik in the far south, where police fired tear gas at students.

Anti-coup protesters flash the three-fingered sign of resistance during a demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday. AP

Officials are also believed to have exhumed the body of a young woman who was killed during Wednesday’s suppression of protests in Mandalay. The woman, Kyal Sin, had been photographed taking part in the protests before her death, and images of her on the front lines have made her a high-profile martyr.

Security forces on Friday night sealed off the cemetery where she was buried, and when residents visited in the morning, her grave was freshly plastered over and shovels and other evidence of digging were found at the site.

There was no official explanation of the incident, but media close to the military had earlier reported that the authorities had questioned the conclusion that she had been shot dead by police, and intended to investigate.

The escalation of violence has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on Feb. 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015 and again last year. It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention.

Large protests have occurred daily across many cities and towns, and security forces have responded with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests. At least 18 protesters were shot and killed last Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office. More than 1,000 have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, called for Security Council unity and "robust" action to stop the violence, in a briefing to the body on Friday.

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"We must denounce the actions by the military," she said. "It is critical that this council is resolute and coherent in putting the security forces on notice and standing with the people of Myanmar firmly, in support of the clear November election results."

The Security Council took no immediate action.

Council diplomats said Britain circulated a draft presidential statement for consideration, a step below a legally binding resolution. While any kind of coordinated action at the U.N. will be difficult because two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it.