More protests, grenades, wounded. ASEAN ministers hold virtual summit
by Francis Khoo Thwe

Clashes with security forces in Yangon. Rumours of two deaths. One dead and several wounded in Kale. Following global protestations, the military leaders ask security forces not to use lethal weapons. ASEAN runs for cover. Singapore: No to violence, free Aung San Suu Kyi, dialogue for peace. Democratic leader charged with two other violations.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - Security forces once again opened fire in Yangon this morning with bullets and grenades. Demonstrations against the military coup were held in at least four places in the city.

There has been no official confirmation of reports on social media that in addition to many injured, two demonstrators were killed. Instead, one death was confirmed in Kale (in the north-west of the country), where the police fired on the crowd to disperse the demonstration. Here too there are several injured in serious condition.

There have been dozens of deaths since the demonstrations against the coup d'état began. The bloodiest day was February 28, when 18 people were killed. Police say one person died in the first days of the demonstrations.

Yesterday the military leaders announced on television that they had asked the security forces not to use lethal bullets. However, at the beginning of the demonstrations, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing had threatened all those who participated in gatherings, which are considered illegal, that they did so at the risk of their lives.

The "pacifist" tone of the leaders follows on the heels of UN denunciation of the violence that took place two days ago which, in addition to the death of 18 demonstrators, caused at least 30 injuries.

The military leaders’ attempt to prove their innocence is also the result of international protests. So far the United States, Great Britain, Canada and the European Union have enacted targeted sanctions against military leaders. The ASEAN foreign ministers will hold a virtual meeting today to discuss the Burmese crisis.

Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in addition to Myanmar, includes Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam. Until now, ASEAN has been criticized for its aloof behaviour. One of the principles on which it is based is non-interference in the internal affairs of partner countries. Especially Singapore, the largest investor in Myanmar ($ 24.5 billion in 2020) has been criticized for its overly favourable attitude to the junta.

The persistence of demonstrations, civil disobedience and strikes that have rendered Myanmar's economy increasingly fragile is compelling the countries of Southeast Asia to find ways to restore "stability" to the country, fearing that the economic and political crisis may also spread across the border.

In a televised interview yesterday, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said he wanted to encourage dialogue between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi. He also said he was "shocked" by the violence against the population and asked the military to stop the violence and free Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

Even the premier of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, interviewed today by the BBC, said that the use of force by the military is "disastrous" and that the only way left is to "free Aung San Suu Kyi, negotiate with her and her party and trace a peaceful path for Myanmar”.

Yesterday Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since the coup, first appeared on video as she appeared in court. In addition to violations of strange commercial (purchase of walkie-talkies) and health rules (rallies without social distancing), she has also been accused of "inciting public unrest" and violation of telecommunication laws.