NAYPYIDAW : Police fired gunshots into the air and used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets on Tuesday (Feb 9), as demonstrators across Myanmar defied a military ban on rallies.
Four people were hurt by rubber bullets in the capital Naypyidaw, and one of them, a woman, was in critical condition with a head wound, a doctor said.
Protests erupted for a fourth straight day against last week’s coup to oust civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite a warning from the new junta that they would take action against demonstrations that threatened “stability”.
In Naypyidaw, the remote capital purpose built by the previous military regime, witnesses said police fired rubber bullets 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 told AFP, adding that he saw some people injured.
An AFP reporter on the ground confirmed that shots had been fired.
It remained unclear how many people were hurt, as a hospital in Naypyidaw would not allow relatives in to see their family members, said Tun Wai, who rushed there when he heard his 23-year-old son was in the operation room.
“My son was shot when he tried to use the megaphone to ask people to protest peacefully after the police used water cannon to disperse them,” the 56-year-old goldsmith told AFP.
“He got hit in the back… I’m very worried about him.”
In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.
After watching hundreds of thousands of people rally in opposition to last week’s coup, junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing made a televised speech on Monday evening to justify seizing power.
The military has banned gatherings of more than five people in Yangon, the nation’s commercial hub, as well as Naypyidaw and other areas across the country where major rallies have erupted, including the second biggest city Mandalay.
A nighttime curfew has also been imposed at the protest hotspot sites.
But on Tuesday, fresh protests emerged in various parts of Yangon, including near the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained by the military.
On Tuesday, Myanmar’s authorities extended areas where gatherings are restricted to more parts of the country, the military’s information unit said.
The areas where public gatherings of more than five people are banned and a curfew has been imposed include the commercial hub of Yangon, the capital Naypyidaw, as well as some towns in the Magwe region, Kachin state, Kayah state, Mon state and Shan State, the Facebook page of the military’s True News information unit said.
One witness told Reuters that demonstrators ran away as guns were fired into the air, but not in the direction of the crowd.
The witness said police had initially used water cannon and tried to push a large crowd back, but demonstrators responded with projectiles.
Footage on social media showed people running, with the sound of several gunshots in the distance.
A doctor said four people, including the woman with a head wound, were brought to his hospital after being struck by rubber bullets.
Police arrested at least 27 demonstrators in Mandalay, including a journalist, domestic media organisations said.