Myanmar police fired stun grenades to disperse protesters in the city of Yangon on Tuesday, witnesses said, as foreign ministers of neighboring countries were due to hold talks with the military in an effort to quell deadly violence.
The talks will come two days after the bloodiest day of unrest since the military removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government a month ago, unleashing anger and mass street protests across Myanmar.
Protesters, many wearing hard hats and clutching makeshift shields, had gathered behind barricades in different parts of Yangon to chant slogans against military rule. Crowds also gathered in other parts of the country, media reported.
“If we’re oppressed, there will be explosion. If we’re hit, we’ll hit back,” the crowd chanted at one Yangon protest before police moved in to break up it up with stun grenades, witnesses said. There were no reports of any injuries.
At least 21 protesters have been killed since the turmoil began. The army said one policemen was killed.
The coup on Feb. 1 halted Myanmar’s tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, and has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the United States and other Western countries, and growing concern among its neighbors.
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be frank when they meet by video call on Tuesday and will tell a representative of Myanmar’s military they are appalled by the violence.
In a television interview late on Monday, Balakrishnan said ASEAN would encourage dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta.
“They need to talk, and we need to help bring them together,” he said.
ASEAN groups Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
The military justified the coup saying its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Suu Kyi’s party were ignored. The election commission said the vote was fair.
Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in remarks read on state television by a newscaster, said protest leaders and “instigators” would be punished and threatened action against civil servants refusing to work.
Min Aung Hlaing has pledged to hold new elections and hand power to the winner but has given no time frame.