Updated: March 01, 2021 06:22 AM GMT
Police gesture toward protesters as security forces crack down on demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon on Feb. 28. At least 18 protesters were shot dead. (Photo: Sai Aung Main/AFP)
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has called for patience and tolerance as at least 18 anti-coup protesters were shot dead by Myanmar security forces on Feb. 28, the bloodiest day since the Feb. 1 military coup.
He said the streets of Myanmar have seen so much pain, suffering and resistance.
“Let us all believe in the power of love and reconciliation,” Cardinal Bo said in a Feb. 28 homily.
“We are all sons and daughters of the same land, same mother Myanmar, and we need to exercise patience and tolerance.
“If you want to be a leader, you must serve. Service is the greatest power, not guns. Make peace our destiny, not conflict. Arms are useless. Rearm ourselves with reconciliation and dialogue.”
Hundreds of Catholic laypeople joined by priests and nuns marched in Mandalay on Feb. 28 saying the rosary and calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The second Sunday of Lent saw violence erupt in Yangon, Mandalay, Dawei, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku when police and soldiers opened fire on crowds protesting against military rule.
The United Nations rights office said at least 18 people were killed and more than 30 wounded. Some media reported that as many as 26 died.
Tear gas was also reportedly used in various locations as well as flash-bang and stun grenades.
The intensive crackdown has drawn strong condemnation from the UN, the European Union and other countries including the US.
UN spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said: “We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters.”
Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said it was clear the junta’s assault would continue, so the international community needed to ratchet up its response.
“Words of condemnation are welcome but insufficient. We must act,” he said.
Andrews proposed a global arms embargo, more sanctions from more countries, sanctions on the military's businesses and a UN Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court.
The assault on peaceful protests came two days after Myanmar’s envoy to the UN broke rank in a rare speech against the military regime and called for international action to help reverse the coup.
Kyaw Moe Tu urged the UN Security Council and the world to use “any means necessary to rescue the people of Myanmar and hold the military to account.”
Despite the bloody crackdown, hundreds of protesters continued to hold peaceful protests in Yangon and Mandalay on March 1 by defying the junta’s order.
Myanmar has been in political turmoil since the army seized power and detained elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi after alleging fraud in the November 2020 election her National League for Democracy party won by a landslide.
The impoverished nation, which was ruled by the military for more than five decades, has seen daily protests following the coup that abruptly ended a 10-year experiment with democracy.
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