9 killed in Myanmar as police fire to break up protests

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    MYANMAR security forces opened fire on protests against military rule on Wednesday killing nine people, witnesses and media reported, a day after neighboring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar resolve the crisis.

    The security forces resorted to live fire with little warning in several towns and cities, witnesses said, as the junta appeared more determined than ever to stamp out protests against a Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    “They marched towards us and fired tear gas, marched again and used stun grenades,” said Si Thu Maung, a protest leader in the central town of Myingyan. “Then they didn’t spray us with water cannon, no warning to disperse, they just fired their guns.”

    One teenaged boy was killed in Myingyan but the heaviest toll was in another central town, Monywa, where five people – four men and one woman – were killed, said Ko Thit Sar, editor of the Monywa Gazette. “At least 30 people are wounded, some still unconscious.”

    Two people were killed in the country’s second-biggest city Mandalay, a witness and media reports said, and one person was killed when police opened fire in the main city of Yangon, a witness there said.

    A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

    At least 30 people have been killed since the coup.

    The violence came a day after foreign ministers from Southeast Asian neighbors urged restraint but failed to unite behind a call for the release Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy.

    Protesters were also out in Chin State in the west, Kachin State in the north, Shan State in the northeast, the central region of Sagaing and the south, media and residents said.

    “We’re aiming to show that no one in this country wants dictatorship,” Salai Lian, an activist in Chin State, told Reuters earlier.

    Security forces also detained about 300 protesters as they broke up protests in Yangon, the Myanmar Now news agency reported. One activist said several protest leaders were among those taken away. Video posted on social media showed long lines of young men, hands on heads, filing into army trucks as police and soldiers stood guard. Reuters was unable to verify the footage.

    On Tuesday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to make a breakthrough in a virtual foreign ministers’ meeting on Myanmar.