UN expert fears violence with troops sent to Myanmar city

(AP) — The U.N. expert on human rights in Myanmar warned of the prospect for major violence as demonstrators gather again Wednesday to protest the military’s seizure of power.

U.N. rapporteur Tom Andrews said he had received reports of soldiers being transported into Yangon, the biggest city, from outlying regions.

“In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances, and detentions on a mass scale,” he said in a statement issued by his office in Geneva. “I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments­ – planned mass protests and troops converging – we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.”

More protests were expected Wednesday all over the country despite the possibility of violence by the army and police.

“Let’s march en masse. Let’s show our force against the coup government that has destroyed the future of youth and our country,” Kyi Toe, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy party of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, wrote on his Facebook page late Tuesday.

On Monday in Mandalay, the country’s second biggest city, security forces pointed guns at a group of 1,000 demonstrators and attacked them with slingshots and sticks. Local media reported that police also fired rubber bullets into a crowd and that a few people were injured.

The protests are taking place in defiance of an order banning gatherings of five or more people.

Police filed a new charge against Suu Kyi, her lawyer said Tuesday, a move likely to fuel further public anger.

Suu Kyi, who was detained in the Feb. 1 military takeover, already faced a charge of illegally possessing walkie-talkies — an apparent attempt to provide a legal veneer for her house arrest. The new charge accuses her of breaking a law that has been used to prosecute people who have violated coronavirus restrictions, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters after meeting with a judge in the capital, Naypyitaw. It carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a strong denunciation of the legal maneuver against Suu Kyi.

“New charges against Aung San Suu Kyi fabricated by the Myanmar military are a clear violation of her human rights,” he tweeted. “We stand with the people of Myanmar and will ensure those responsible for this coup are held to account.”

A spokesman for the United Nations said any new charges against Suu Kyi don’t change the world body’s “firm denunciation” of the military overturning the “democratic will of the people” and arresting political leaders, activists and peaceful protesters.