On Sunday, the authorities in Myanmar began their most violent crackdown to date on protesters who have been massing in the streets for weeks in opposition to the military’s Feb. 1 coup.
The violence against the unarmed and mostly peaceful protesters left 18 dead and more than 30 wounded, according to the United Nations’ human rights office, and took place across the country, including in the central city of Mandalay, Dawei in the southeast and Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. The crackdown has continued in recent days, with at least 40 killed by security forces, including 15 on Wednesday.
Unlike previous conflicts in Myanmar, the post-coup crackdown has been “carried out in front of thousands of phones and cameras,” enabling the real-time documentation of extreme violence committed by the authorities, said Richard Weir, a Human Rights Watch researcher previously based in Myanmar.
Much of the violence on Wednesday was captured by shaky videos recorded on mobile phones, with the screams of protesters punctuated by the crack of live ammunition. Young protesters in hard hats and face masks worn for coronavirus protection scrambled to avoid security forces, who at times seemed to shoot at random.
The New York Times reviewed dozens of such videos, which show both soldiers and police officers using a variety of weapons, including shotguns, flash bangs, tear gas grenade launchers and rifles. In at least two episodes we tracked, footage captured civilians suffering from what appeared to be fatal gunshot wounds. Photographs also show that at least one of the units implicated in the genocidal campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority appears to have been involved in the crackdown.
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