Mandalay, Myanmar, Feb 20 – A raid on a shipyard in Myanmar’s second-largest city turned violent Saturday when police and soldiers fired live rounds and rubber bullets at protesters gathering to stop arrests.
At least five people were injured by rubber bullets, a photographer at the scene reported, while emergency medical staff treating the injured confirmed at least six others were shot with live rounds.
Much of the country has been in uproar since the military deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to protest against the junta.
Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the putsch, many of them civil servants who had been boycotting work as part of a civil disobedience campaign.
On Saturday, hundreds of police and soldiers gathered at Yadanarbon shipyard in Mandalay, on the Irrawaddy river.
Their presence sparked fears among nearby residents that authorities would try to arrest workers for taking part in the anti-coup movement.
Banging pots and pans in what has become a signature gesture of defiance protesters started yelling at the police to leave.
But police opened fire with live rounds, rubber bullets and slingshot balls, dispersing the alarmed protesters.
“Six men with gunshot wounds arrived to our team. Two are seriously injured,” a medical aide to doctors on the scene told AFP, declining to provide his name for fear of repercussions.
One of the men was hit in the abdomen and remains “in critical condition”, he said.
“We transferred those who were seriously injured and in a critical condition to another place for intensive care, but we cannot reveal the place.”
A doctor on the scene confirmed that some protesters had been injured by live rounds.
“We do not have enough medicine for them to be treated here,” he said, explaining the transfer.
Around the protest site, empty bullet cartridges were found, as well as slingshot ammunition including metal balls.
One woman received a head wound from a rubber bullet and emergency workers quickly administered first aid to her.
A Facebook video streamed live by a resident on the scene appeared to carry non-stop sounds of gunshots.
“They are shooting cruelly,” said the resident, who appeared to be taking shelter on a nearby construction site.
“We have to find a safer place.”
Since the nationwide protests started two weeks ago, authorities in some cities have deployed tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against demonstrators.
There have been isolated incidents of live rounds being fired.
An anti-coup protester who was shot in the head during a February 9 demonstration in Naypyidaw died on Friday. Her doctors had confirmed to AFP that her injury was from a live bullet.