Burma at least 38 dead: experiences bloodiest day since coup

Burma at least 38 dead: experiences bloodiest day since coup

Police fire tear gas at crowds during a protest against the military coup, in Mandalay, Burma, on March 3.

Thirty-eight died on March 4, “Black Wednesday” and the bloodiest day since the start of the peaceful insurgency against the military regime in Burma. This massacre brings to more than fifty the number of Burmese fallen under the bullets of the police officers and the soldiers in twenty-six almost continuous days of demonstrations against the capacity of the army.

At least 38 people were killed during protests in Burma Wednesday, as violence escalated against opponents of last month’s military coup, according to a U.N. official.

Video footage appeared to show police using 9mm submachine guns to fire live ammunition, said Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N. special envoy for Burma, who cited weapons experts that examined the footage. 

She said another clip showed a protester -- who wasn't resisting arrest -- being taken away by police before he was shot from about three feet away. Other videos captured security forces in the country chasing, firing slingshots at protesters and beating a medical crew.

"We have now more than over 50 people died since the coup started and many are wounded," said Burgener at U.N. headquarters Wednesday.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest the coup and subsequent arrest of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The bloodshed on Wednesday occurred after at least 18 people in several cities were killed on Sunday when security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrating crowds, the U.N. said.

Security forces have arrested hundreds of people, including journalists, during the protests. Burgener said about 1,200 people have been detained in Burma since last month's coup. She added that family members don't know their whereabouts or health conditions. 

"We are appalled and revulsed to see the horrific violence perpetrated against the people of Burma for their peaceful calls to restore civilian governance," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday. 

Security forces are believed to single out medical workers because they launched the country’s civil disobedience movement to resist the junta -- a government led by a committee of military leaders, reports said. 

In Mandalay, riot police, backed by soldiers, broke up a rally and chased around 1,000 teachers and students from a street with tear gas as gunshots could be heard.

Foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries met Tuesday to discuss the political crisis. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations released a statement following the meeting that only called for an end to violence and for talks on how to reach a peaceful settlement.  

The U.N. Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation on Friday, council diplomats said.

However, coordinated action at the United Nations will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it.