London – Security forces for Myanmar’s military regime are using battlefield weapons on unarmed protesters and carrying out premeditated killings orchestrated by their commanding officers, Amnesty International said Thursday.
The human rights group collated graphic video clips posted on social media to document what it called a “nationwide killing spree” in the weeks since the military seized power on Feb. 1.
“These Myanmar military tactics are far from new, but their killing sprees have never before been livestreamed for the world to see,” Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s director of crisis response, said in a new report.
“These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions,” she said.
“These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open.”
Amnesty presented an analysis of 55 videos recorded from Feb. 28 to March 8 in cities across Myanmar, including Mandalay and Yangon.
In one Facebook clip from the southeastern city of Dawei, dated Feb. 28, a soldier is seen handing his rifle to a police officer next to him. The policeman takes aim and shoots, before personnel around them erupt in apparent celebration.
The footage was recorded from a property above the street. In the background of the audio, women can be heard sobbing.
“Not only does this incident show a reckless disregard for human life, making sport of shooting live rounds at protesters, it also reveals deliberate coordination among security forces,” Mariner said.
Amnesty said some military units had been drafted in from restive ethnic-minority areas of Myanmar where many atrocities are said to have occurred, and also alleged extrajudicial executions of protesters.
Another clip, removed from Twitter from March 3, shows personnel leading a man toward a larger group of security forces in Yangon.
The man appears to be in custody and is offering no visible resistance when an officer beside him shoots him.
He is left on the road, apparently lifeless, for several seconds before officers drag him away.
Amnesty also catalogued the use by security forces of firearms that are “completely inappropriate for use in policing protests”, including light machine guns, sniper rifles and semi-automatic rifles.
“The weaponry deployed by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar armed forces) reveals a deliberate and dangerous escalation in tactics,” Mariner said. “Make no mistake, we are in a deadly new phase of the crisis.”
Amnesty urged the U.N. Security Council to step in. On Wednesday it unanimously agreed on a statement condemning the military’s use of violence against the peaceful anti-coup protesters.
It was the second time in just over a month that its 15 members — including China, a traditional ally of Myanmar — made a rare show of unity over the developments.
However, the statement does not use the word “coup” or mention the possibility of international sanctions if the generals do not halt their repression.
Earlier versions of the British-drafted resolution, under discussion since Friday, was more forthright but was blocked on Tuesday, with China, Vietnam, India and Russia opposed, diplomats said.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month, triggering daily protests around the country seeking the return of democracy.
Close to 2,000 people have been arrested and the death toll has climbed to more than 60.
A week ago, U.N. Special Rapporteur Thomas Andrews urged the Security Council to refer the regime to the International Criminal Court “to investigate and possibly prosecute atrocity crimes that have occurred.”
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