Security forces killed at least 14 protesters in the poor, industrial Hlaingthaya suburb of Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, on Sunday after Chinese-financed factories in the area were set ablaze, according to local media.
A further 14 people were reported killed elsewhere in Yangon and other parts of Myanmar and state television said a policeman had died in one of the bloodiest days of protests against the February 1 military coup against elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
China’s embassy said many Chinese staff were injured and trapped in arson attacks by unidentified assailants on garment factories in Hlaingthaya and that it had called on Myanmar to protect Chinese property and citizens.
As plumes of smoke rose from the industrial area, security forces opened fire on protesters in the suburb that is home to migrants from across the country, local media said.
Myanmar Now said at least 14 protesters had been killed, according to the local hospital and a rescue worker.
“The dead and wounded are still arriving,” it quoted an official of the Hlaingthaya hospital as saying. Other Myanmar media gave even higher tolls.
Martial law was imposed in Hlaingthaya and another district of Myanmar’s commercial hub, state media announced.
Army-run Myawadday television said security forces acted after four garment factories and a fertiliser plant were set ablaze and about 2,000 people had stopped fire engines from reaching them.
A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.
Doctor Sasa, a representative of elected lawmakers from the Assembly that was ousted by the army, voiced solidarity with the people of Hlaingthaya.
“The perpetrators, attackers, enemies of the people of Myanmar, the evil SAC (State Administrative Council) will be held accountable for every drop of blood that shed,” he said in a message.
The latest deaths would bring the toll from the protests to well over 100 while the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group had said over 2,100 had also been arrested by Saturday.
China’s embassy described the situation as “very severe” after the attacks on the Chinese-financed factories. It did not make a statement about the killings.
“China urges Myanmar to take further effective measures to stop all acts of violence, punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese companies and personnel in Myanmar,” its statement said.
No group claimed responsibility for burning the factories.
Anti-Chinese sentiment has risen since the coup that plunged Myanmar into turmoil, with opponents of the army takeover noting Beijing’s muted criticism compared to western condemnation.
Only two factories had been burnt for now, protest leader Ei Thinzar Maung posted on Facebook. “If you want to do business in Myanmar stably, then respect Myanmar people,” she said. “Fighting Hlaingthaya, we are proud of you!!”
Britain was appalled by the use of deadly force by security forces against innocent people in Hlaingthaya and elsewhere on Sunday, its ambassador said in a statement.
“We call for an immediate cessation of this violence and for the military regime to hand back power to those democratically elected by the people of Myanmar,” ambassador Dan Chugg said.Away from Hlaingthaya, at least 14 deaths were reported elsewhere in Myanmar, including in the second city of Mandalay and in Bago, where state television MRTV said a police officer had died of a chest wound after a confrontation with protesters.