Myanmar’s military raided the Yangon headquarters of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party on Tuesday, officials said, as the United States joined the UN in “strongly” condemning violence against protesters demanding a return to democracy.
The latest assault on Myanmar’s civilian leadership came as anger at last week’s coup and the detention of Suu Kyi by the generals has driven hundreds of thousands of people into the streets, defying a junta ban on rallies.
“The military dictator raided and destroyed NLD headquarters at around 9:30 pm,” the National League for Democracy announced on its Facebook page.
The raid came after demonstrations erupted for a fourth straight day on Tuesday, with police using water cannons in several cities, firing rubber bullets at protesters in the capital Naypyidaw and deploying tear gas in Mandalay.
The rallies came despite a warning from the junta that it would take action against demonstrations that threatened “stability”, and a new ban on gatherings of more than five people.
The United States, which has led global censure of the coup, issued a fresh statement Tuesday renewing a call for freedom of expression in Myanmar.
“We strongly condemn violence against demonstrators,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, adding that people in Myanmar “have rights to peaceful assembly.” Price has previously said US requests to speak to Suu Kyi had been denied.
As night fell the United Nations also voiced its “strong concern” over the violence.
“The use of disproportionate force against demonstrators is unacceptable,” said Ola Almgren, the UN resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar.
In Naypyidaw, the remote capital purpose-built by the previous military regime, witnesses said police fired projectiles at protesters after earlier blasting them with water cannon.
“They fired warning shots to the sky two times, then they fired (at protesters) with rubber bullets,” a resident said.
At least one emergency room doctor said the military was also using live rounds, leaving a 23-year-old man and 19-year-old in a critical condition in hospital.
“We believe they are actual bullets because of the wounds and their injuries,” the doctor said.
“We don’t operate on their wounds because they could die right away — we are 100 per cent sure they will die if we operate — that’s why we are watching their condition by treating them medically.” The father of one of the victims said his son had been shot “when he tried to use the megaphone to ask people to protest peacefully after the police used water cannon to disperse them.”
“He got hit in the back… I’m very worried about him,” the 56-year-old goldsmith said.
In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.
Earlier this week the protests by hundreds of thousands appeared to have rattled the military, with junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing making a televised speech on Monday to justify seizing power, citing fraud claims. The protesters carried placards, some of which read “We want our leader”, in reference to Suu Kyi and “No dictatorship”.
New Zealand on Tuesday became the first foreign government to take concrete public action, announcing the suspension of high-level military and political contacts with Myanmar.
The UN Human Rights Council said it would hold a relatively rare special session on Friday to discuss the crisis.