Police arrested a famous Myanmar actor Sunday, hours after two people were killed by gunfire as security forces used live and rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and slingshots against protesters who were demonstrating against the military’s Feb. 1 coup.
The actor, Lu Min, had taken part in protests in Yangon and was one of six celebrities the army said Wednesday were wanted under an anti-incitement law. The army accused Lu Min of encouraging civil servants to join in the protest. If convicted he faces a two-year prison sentence.
In a video posted on Lu Min’s Facebook page, his wife said police had come to their home in Yangon and taken him away.
"They forced open the door and took him away and didn't tell me where they were taking him. I couldn’t stop them. They didn’t tell me," Khin Sabai Oo said.
Military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun has not responded to repeated attempts by Reuters to contact him by telephone for comment.
About 500 police and soldiers gathered Saturday at a shipyard in Myanmar’s second-largest city of Mandalay to disperse workers and other demonstrators, sparking an hourslong faceoff.
Security forces dispersed the crowd with gunfire and other forms of force, leaving two dead and 20 others injured, according to the Irrawaddy news website and a leader of the Parahita Darhi volunteer emergency service agency, Ko Aung.
Demonstrators, area residents and journalists reportedly fled the area as security forces chased after them, attacking one group of journalists with slingshots and tear gas.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group, said Saturday 569 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced in connection with the coup.
Security forces have grown increasingly aggressive against the protesters, who have clashed with Myanmar security forces since the military detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other high-ranking officials of the civilian government nearly three weeks ago. The military declared a one-year state of emergency, citing widespread fraud in last November’s general elections, won in a landslide by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
The military’s claims were rejected by Myanmar’s electoral commission.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the deadly violence. "The use of lethal force, intimidation and harassment against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable," he said on Twitter.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the United States was "deeply concerned" by reports that security forces had fired on protesters and continued to detain and harass demonstrators and others.
"We stand with the people of Burma," Price wrote on Twitter. Myanmar is also known as Burma.
Britain said it would consider further action against those involved in violence against protesters, and the French foreign ministry called the violence "unacceptable."
"The shooting of peaceful protesters in Myanmar is beyond the pale," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet. "We will consider further action, with our international partners, against those crushing democracy & choking dissent."
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have since filled the streets of Myanmar’s biggest cities in defiance of a strict curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than four people, holding signs with pro-democracy slogans, many of them with pictures of Suu Kyi. They have raised a three-finger salute as they marched, a sign of resistance against tyranny as depicted in the popular Hunger Games movies.
In addition to protests, government employees and civil servants are on strike, resulting in disruptions to train services throughout the country. The military has ordered civil servants back to work and threatened action against them. A growing number of workers from other sectors, including medical personnel, have walked off their jobs in recent days.
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup, promised last week in a nationally televised speech that new elections would be held to bring what he called a "true and disciplined democracy,” but he did not specify when they would take place.
Reuters news service contributed to this report.