Myanmar’s security forces fired live rounds and rubber bullets at protesters in the country’s second-largest city on Saturday, leaving at least two dead and about 30 injured.
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.
On Saturday, hundreds of police and soldiers gathered at Yadanarbon shipyard in Mandalay, by 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 and throwing rocks at them.
But officers opened fire with live rounds, rubber bullets and slingshot balls, dispersing the alarmed protesters.
“Two people were killed,” said Hlaing Min Oo, the head of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team, adding that one of the victims was a boy shot in the head.
“About 30 others were injured — half of the injured people were shot with live rounds.”
The rest were wounded from rubber bullets and slingshots, he said.
Another emergency worker on the scene confirmed the two deaths.
“Two people died,” he told AFP, declining to be named for fear of repercussions. “One under-18 boy got shot in his head.”
Graphic video circulated on Facebook of the boy splayed on the ground and bleeding from his head as one bystander placed a hand on his chest to feel for a heartbeat.
– ‘Shooting cruelly’ –
Around the shipyard and its surrounding neighbourhood, empty bullet cartridges were found on the ground, 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.”
Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the putsch in early February, many of them civil servants who had been boycotting work as part of a civil disobedience campaign.
Police and soldiers in some cities have deployed tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to tackle 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.