BANGKOK – The killing of at least 65 protesters in Myanmar’s largest city on March 14 this year was planned and premeditated, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice, a rights watchdog said in a report released Thursday. .
Human Rights Watch accused security forces of deliberately surrounding and using deadly force against mobs in Yangon’s working-class neighborhood of Hlaing Tharyar, who were protesting against the February 1 military takeover of the democratically elected government. Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Soldiers and police armed with military assault rifles fired at trapped protesters and those trying to help the wounded, killing at least 65 protesters and bystanders,” the New York-based organization said. .
The army-installed government, which imposed martial law in the region after the violence, called the protesters “rioters” who set fire to garment factories and blocked firefighters. Human Rights Watch said no action has been taken against members of the security forces. No government official was immediately available for comment.
Burmese Human Rights Watch researcher Manny Maung told The Associated Press that the actions of the security forces “constitute the crime against humanity of murder.”
“Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the command structure, and whoever ordered the crackdown and the implementation of the crackdown is responsible,” she said. In his opinion, it would be the Yangon regional military commander and the city police chief.
“There is a need to ensure that these figures are informed that they can be tried and held to account at a later date,” she said.
Human Rights Watch said it based its findings on interviews with six witnesses and analyzes of 13 videos and 31 photographs of the violence posted on social media.
“We can prove, through testimony and digital analysis, that in videos released by security forces and footage showing security forces pointing their weapons – assault rifles and automatic weapons – against civilians, it was planned and coordinated, âsaid Manny Maung.
The report mentions a video posted on TikTok by a policeman that shows riot police preparing to advance on protesters.
âAs they were discussing which weapons they were going to use, an officer said to the others, ‘You are going to take care of Hlaing Tharyar.’ Another responds, ‘I will show no mercy on these people,’ “he said.
In the months immediately following the takeover of the military, largely peaceful protests across the country were increasingly brutally suppressed by the security forces. In response, some protesters began to use homemade weapons in self-defense.
“Some protesters used weapons, such as stones, slingshots and Molotov cocktails, in response to security forces fire, but no security force casualties were reported,” according to the report, citing witnesses.
Human Rights Watch urged the international community to “respond to ongoing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Myanmar by complementing, strengthening and coordinating international sanctions against the junta leaders and military.” The United States and other countries already maintain diplomatic and economic sanctions.
Since the takeover of the army, at least 1,300 protesters and passers-by have been killed, according to a detailed count kept by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, which documents the political repression.
âThe point is, the violations continue,â Manny Maung said. âThe point of raising this now is to prove that everything that happened nine months ago is still important because we can and will hold these people to account and we can prove that they did it with intention.”