Myanmar Regime Unwittingly Acknowledges ‘Shoot-to-Kill’ Policy Against Protesters

By The Irrawaddy 27 March 2021

Myanmar’s military regime has unwittingly admitted its policy of targeting protesters with fatal gunshots to the head and back, while issuing a warning to young people — who have played a major role in anti-regime protests across the country since the February coup – to stay off the streets.

In a thinly veiled threat aired on state-run Myanmar Radio and Television on Friday night, the regime said young people had been misled by “foreign henchmen” and attributed their eagerness to join protests to a mistaken belief that it was like playing a video game.

“You should take lessons from earlier ugly deaths, that you could be in danger of getting shot in the head and back,” it said, before adding the warning “Don’t be misled, boys and girls!” and urging parents to prevent their children from getting involved in protests.

It was the regime’s first acknowledgement of the high incidence of fatal head and torso gunshot wounds among the protester casualties. Prior to Friday, it had simply repeated the claim that “combined forces [i.e., soldiers and riot police] use minimum force to quell protesters” and have been forced to deploy “riot gear to defend themselves only when rioters tried to attack them.” It previously said “live rounds were not allowed to be used” and that riot-control projectiles including rubber bullets could only be used on protesters “below the waist.”

Pictures and video captured on the ground portray a very different picture, though.

In reality, the military’s “minimum use of force” turns out to include spraying protests and residential neighborhoods with live ammunition, as well as arbitrary killings during raids on homes. Empty bullet casings gathered by civilians after each deadly crackdown have shown that the regime’s claim not to be using live ammunition is a lie.

As of Saturday morning, at least 350 civilians, including a 6-year-old girl, had been slain since Feb. 1. Many sustained visible gunshot wounds to the head and back—just as the regime unwittingly confirmed on Friday.

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