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At least 18 protesters die after Myanmar police open fire

Chaos across Myanmar as police use lethal force to try and disperse protesters

At least 18 people were killed and several wounded after Myanmar police fired on protesters yesterday in the bloodiest day of weeks of demonstrations against a military coup.

"Throughout the day, in several locations throughout the country, police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force that - according to credible information received by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office - has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded," the office said.

The police were out in force early and opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds.

Several wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving bloody smears on pavements, media images showed. One man died after he was taken to a hospital with a bullet in the chest, said a doctor who asked not to be identified.

"Myanmar is like a battlefield," the Buddhist-majority nation's first Catholic cardinal Charles Maung Bo said.

CONDEMNATION

Myanmar has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on Feb 1, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

The coup, which brought a halt to tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets and the condemnation of Western countries.

A UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the office had confirmed at least five people dead in Yangon.

The police also opened fire in Dawei in the south, killing three and wounding several others, politician Kyaw Min Htike said.

The Myanmar Now media outlet reported two people killed in a protest in Mandalay. Security forces opened fire again later in the day and a woman was killed, Mandalay resident Sai Tun said.

"The medical team checked her and confirmed she didn't make it," the resident said.

The dead in Yangon included teacher Tin New Yee, who died after the police swooped to disperse a teachers' protest with stun grenades, her daughter and a fellow teacher said.

STUN GRENADES

The police also hurled stun grenades outside a Yangon medical school, sending doctors and students scattering. A group called the Whitecoat Alliance of Medics said more than 50 medical staff had been arrested.

The police broke up protests in other towns, including Lashio in the north-east, Myeik in the deep south and Hpa-An in the east, residents and media said.

Junta leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, said last week the authorities were using minimal force. But at least 21 protesters have now died in the turmoil. The army said a policeman has been killed.

Indonesia, which has taken the lead within Asean on efforts to resolve the turmoil, said it was deeply concerned.

State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested on Saturday when the police launched the nationwide crackdown. It was not clear how many were detained yesterday. - REUTERS

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