WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department has ordered all non-essential personnel and their family members to leave Myanmar as the military’s bloody crackdown against anti-coup demonstrations continues.
"The Burmese military has detained and deposed elected government officials,” the department said in a written statement ordering the evacuations, using Myanmar’s former name. “Protests and demonstrations against military rule have occurred and are expected to continue.”
The State Department's order updates an advisory issued just last month that allowed non-emergency U.S. personnel to leave if they wanted.
Myanmar security forces have killed at least 512 civilians since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The death toll includes more than 100 people on Saturday as the regime staged a major show of might for Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II. AAPP puts Saturday’s death toll at 141.
“What has happened on the national day of armed forces was horrendous,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a news conference Monday.
Two more people were killed Tuesday as thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets again. The civil disobedience movement employed another tactic as residents in Yangon threw garbage on intersections throughout the city.
Three of the country’s armed ethnic rebel groups, meanwhile, threatened the junta Tuesday with retaliation if it does not stop killing protesters.
“If they do not stop and continue to kill the people, we will cooperate with the protestors and fight back,” the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army said in a joint statement.
The military expanded its crackdown by launching airstrikes against ethnic Karen rebels in eastern Myanmar in response to rebel attacks on military and police stations in recent days. The airstrikes prompted thousands of people to flee through the jungle and over the border into neighboring Thailand.
Thailand has denied accusations by humanitarian aid agencies that its soldiers had forced refugees to return to Myanmar.
The United Nations Security Council will hold a closed door meeting Wednesday on the situation in Myanmar. Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary-General Guterres, told VOA’s Margaret Besheer that “what we would like to see, is a very strong and unified message from Security Council members to the military in Myanmar to go back on the actions that have taken place, to stop the violence, to release the political prisoners, to return the country to the people of Myanmar, and to push for the travel of our Special Envoy to Myanmar.”
Former de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) led Myanmar since its first open democratic election in 2015, but Myanmar's military contested last November's election results, claiming widespread electoral fraud, largely without evidence.
On February 1, the military removed the NLD government, detaining Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. Martial law has been imposed in townships across Myanmar.