The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar says at least 38 people were killed across the country Wednesday during another day of demonstrations against the military junta.
"Today, it was the bloodiest day since the coup happened on the first of February," Christine Schraner Burgener told reporters in a video call from Switzerland.
Reuters news agency said at least nine people have been killed, including five people in the central town of Monywa, quoting witnesses and media reports. Both Reuters and The Associated Press say a teenage boy was killed in the central city of Myingyan.
Meanwhile, Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP) said at least two people have been killed in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city. AFP also reported four other deaths in the Sagaing region.
Security forces used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds, with witnesses saying live ammunition was also used against the protesters. Several people were reportedly injured, among them reporter Htet Aung Khant with VOA's Burmese Service, who was hit by rubber bullets under his arm as he covered the protests.
Schraner Burgener said she was very disturbed by videos circulating of police shooting a protester at close range and another of police beating an unarmed medical crew who did not resist arrest.
"From the video clips, I asked some weapons experts to verify to me, it's not clear, but it seems that the police used weapons like 9-millimeter submachine guns - live ammunition," she said.
Myanmar has been mired in chaos and violence for one month, since the military's overthrow of the civilian government and the detentions of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other high-ranking officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Party.
Schraner Burgener said she is in daily contact with Suu Kyi and the committee that represents NLD legislators, known as the CRPH. The envoy last spoke with Deputy Military Chief Soe Win on February 15 but said she sent him a long letter on Sunday. She has not received a direct response but said the military sends her some information every day.
The military has claimed widespread fraud in last November's election, which the NLD won in a landslide. Myanmar's electoral commission has denied the claims.
Military Chief Min Aung Hlaing declared a one-year state of emergency and said new elections will be held to bring about a "true and disciplined democracy." But he has not said when the vote would be held. Schraner Burgener said Soe Win told her those elections would happen in one year.
"He said that it is due to the constitution," she said. "We talked also to constitutional experts, and they said it doesn't have to be one year. But clearly, I think that was the real plan of the army."
Schraner Burgener expressed concern that the military would conduct sham investigations of the NLD that would lead to their being banned and then the army would illegitimately win the election and stay in power. But she said while this strategy may have worked in the past, it will not work now.
"But today, we have young people who lived in freedom for 10 years. They have social media, and they are well-organized and very determined. They don't want to go back in a dictatorship and in isolation," she said. "So, I think the army is surprised, and maybe we have to help them come out of this situation."
Schraner Burgener said the situation could escalate. She pointed to the declaration by 10 of the 21 armed ethnic groups in Myanmar that they would fight back if the army attacks civilians in their regions.
"If both sides use violence, then we have a situation of a real war in Myanmar, which is in nobody's interest," the U.N. envoy said.
She will brief the U.N. Security Council Friday in a closed-door meeting. She last briefed them February 2 at the first and only discussion on the situation.
She told reporters she is still pressing the military to allow her to visit Myanmar, where she has an office and has spent a great deal of time during the three years she has held her mandate.
Myanmar's UN ambassador
In a separate development, Tin Maung Naing, who was appointed Sunday as Myanmar's charge d'affaires at the United Nations by the military regime, has reportedly resigned, according to a post on his Facebook page.
A United Nations spokesperson said they are aware of the reports but had received no official communication.
Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun was fired by the junta after denouncing the coup at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. He said he is still the ambassador because he was appointed by the democratically elected president.
The matter has now gone to the nine-member U.N. credentials committee for review.