Russia and China are frustrating the international response to the Myanmar crisis, a top European Union diplomat said yesterday, as the death toll from a military crackdown climbed past 700.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military removed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power on February 1.
International efforts to stem the violence have so far failed to yield results, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell yesterday saying it was “no surprise” that Russia and China were blocking efforts at the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo.
“Geopolitical competition in Myanmar will make it very difficult to find common ground, as we have witnessed again and again... but we have a duty to try,” he wrote in a blog post.
Europe had become a major export market for Myanmar’s garment industry in recent years, he said, suggesting the EU could offer to increase economic ties and investments if the country returns to a path of democracy.
“The Myanmar military is used to international isolation and has a decade-long record of ignoring the needs and the will of the country’s citizens,” he said.
Borrell’s comments follow days of intense violence in Myanmar, with clashes across the country leaving scores dead.
The weekend saw a steady stream of mourners turn out to pay tribute to loved ones gunned down in the southern city of Bago, where security forces killed at least 82 anti-coup protesters in a brutal crackdown, according to a local monitoring group.
The true number killed may never be known — there are reports security forces took away some bodies.
Ko Thi Ha, 30, a Bago charity worker and eldest of six siblings, was among those fatally wounded.
He was shot trying to escape soldiers by climbing over a brick wall with two others. “The army shouted at him not to run, but he was afraid the army would shoot him if he didn’t run,” his friend said.
“He was shot in the leg and then he fell down, his head hit the brick wall and he died from the incident.”
His family cremated his body after claiming it from the hospital’s mortuary.
AFP-verified footage shot early Friday showed protesters hiding behind sandbag barricades wielding homemade rifles, as explosions were heard in the background.
The United Nations office in Myanmar tweeted late Saturday that medical treatment had been denied to many of the injured at Bago.
Overall, as of late yesterday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners revised up its civilian death toll to 706 since the coup.
The junta claims a far lower number have been killed.
AAPP also confirmed a man was shot dead on a motorbike yesterday at Tamu in the Sagaing region and that his female passenger was wounded and close to death.
It has also verified four deaths from Saturday.
Despite the bloodshed, protesters continued to rally across the country yesterday, both on foot and motorbikes.
University students and their professors marched through Mandalay and the city of Meiktila yesterday morning, according to local media.
Some carried stems of Eugenia flowers — a symbol of victory.
In Yangon, protesters carried a banner that read: “We will get victory, we will win.”
Demonstrators there, as well as in the city of Monywa, took to writing political messages on leaves including “we must win” and calling for UN intervention to prevent further bloodshed.
After sunset protesters lit up their neighbourhoods with flashlights and sang songs.
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