Protests in France against COVID-19 ‘health pass’ rules

PARIS (Reuters) -Police in Paris clashed with protesters railing against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to require a COVID-19 vaccine certificate or negative PCR test to gain entry to bars, restaurants and cinemas from next month.

Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in new coronavirus infections, including the mandatory vaccination of health workers and new health pass rules for the wider public.

In doing so, he went further than most other European nations have done as the highly contagious Delta variant fans a new wave of cases, and other governments are watching carefully to see how the French public responds.

The police fired tear gas on several occasions as pockets of protesters overturned garbage cans and set a mechanical digger alight. Some protesters away from the skirmishes wore badges saying “No to the health pass”.

Some critics of Macron’s plan – which will require shopping malls, cafes, bars and restaurants to check the health passes of all patrons from August – accuse the president of trampling on freedoms and discriminating against those who do not want the COVID shot.

“It’s totally arbitrary and wholly undemocratic,” said one protester who identified himself as Jean-Louis.

Macron says the vaccine is the best way to put France back on the path to normalcy and that he is encouraging as many people as possible to get inoculated.

There were protests in other cities including Nantes, Marseille and Montpellier.

The show of discontent took place on Bastille Day, the anniversary of the 1789 storming of a medieval fortress in Paris which marked the turning point in the French Revolution.

Among other proposals in the government’s draft bill is the mandatory isolation for 10 days of anyone who tests positive, with police making random checks, French media reported. The prime minister’s office did not respond when asked to confirm the detail.

(Reporting by Christian Lowe and Gonzalo Fuentes; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sandra Maler)

Worst violence in years spreads in South Africa as grievances boil over

By Alexander Winning and Wendell Roelf

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -Crowds clashed with police and ransacked or burned shopping malls in South Africa on Tuesday, with dozens reported killed as grievances unleashed by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in years.

Protests that followed Zuma’s arrest last week have widened into looting and an outpouring of generalized anger over inequality that persists 27 years after the fall of apartheid. Poverty has been exacerbated by severe social and economic restrictions aimed at blocking the spread of COVID-19.

Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has so far spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province to Gauteng province surrounding the country’s biggest city Johanesburg. They deployed soldiers onto the streets to try to contain it, but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.

“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalize and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference, echoing sentiments expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa overnight.

The bodies of 10 people were found on Monday evening after a stampede at a Soweto shopping mall, premier David Makhura said.

Hundreds of looters raided warehouses and supermarkets in Durban, one of the busiest shipping terminals on the African continent and a major import-export hub.

Outside a Durban warehouse of retailer Game, Reuters filmed looters stuffing cars with electronic goods and clothes. Inside, the floor was a wreckage of discarded packaging as the crowd systematically emptied the shelves.

Aerial footage from local channel eNCA showed black smoke rising from several warehouses, while debris lay strewn.

Troops were moving into flashpoints on Tuesday as outnumbered police seemed helpless to stop the unrest. Columns of armored personnel carriers rolled down highways.

The rand, which had been one of the best performing emerging market currencies during the pandemic, dropped to a three-month low on Tuesday, and local and hard currency bonds suffered.

UNFULFILLED PROMISE

At least 45 people have so far been killed during the unrest, 19 in Gauteng and 26 in KwaZulu-Natal, according to state and provincial authorities. Police Minister Cele put the official death toll at 10.

On the streets, protesters hurled stones and police responded with rubber bullets, Reuters journalists said.

In Soweto, police and military were patrolling as shop owners assessed the damage.

Cele said 757 people had been arrested so far. He said the government would act to prevent it from spreading further and warned that people would not be allowed “to make a mockery of our democratic state”.

Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at the same news conference, said she did not think a state of emergency should be imposed yet.

Zuma, 79, was sentenced last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.

The legal proceedings have been seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law.

But any confrontation with soldiers risks fueling charges by Zuma and his supporters that they are victims of a politically motivated crackdown by his successor, Ramaphosa.

The violence worsened as Zuma challenged his 15-month jail term in South Africa’s top court on Monday. Judgement was reserved until an unspecified date.

The deteriorating situation pointed to wider problems and unfulfilled expectations that followed the end of white minority rule in 1994. The economy is struggling to emerge from the damage wrought by Africa’s worst COVID-19 epidemic, with authorities repeatedly imposing restrictions on businesses.

Growing joblessness has left people ever more desperate. Unemployment stood at a new record high of 32.6% in the first three months of 2021.

(Additional reporting by Siyabonga Sishi in Durban and Tim Cocks, Siphiwe Sibeko and Tanisha Heiberg in Johannesburg; Writing by Angus MacSwan and Tim CocksEditing by Peter Graff)

U.N. says 230,000 displaced by Myanmar fighting

(Reuters) – An estimated 230,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Myanmar and need assistance, the United Nations said on Thursday, as a major armed ethnic group expressed concern about military force, civilian deaths and a widening of the conflict.

Myanmar has been in crisis since a Feb. 1 coup ousted an elected government, prompting nationwide anger that has led to protests, killings and bombings, and battles on several fronts between troops and newly formed civilian armies.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said relief operations were ongoing but were being hindered by armed clashes, violence and insecurity in the country.

It said 177,000 people were displaced in Karen state bordering Thailand, 103,000 in the past month, while more than 20,000 people were sheltering at 100 displacement areas after fighting between People’s Defense Forces and the army in Chin State bordering India.

Several thousand people had fled fighting in northern Kachin and Shan States, regions with established ethnic minority armies with a long history of hostilities with the military.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of Myanmar’s oldest ethnic minority groups, said it was worried about the military’s excessive use of force and the loss of innocent civilian lives as fighting intensifies all over the country.

“The KNU will continue to fight against military dictatorship and provide as much protection as possible to people and unarmed civilians,” it said in a statement.

The military says it seized power to protect democracy because its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party were ignored.

PROTESTS

Anti-junta protests took place in Kachin State, Dawei, Sagaing Region and the commercial capital Yangon on Thursday, with demonstrators carrying banners and making three-finger gestures of defiance.

Some showed support for those resisting military rule in Mandalay, the second-biggest city, where a firefight took place between the army and a newly formed guerrilla group on Tuesday, the first sign of armed clashes in a major urban center since the coup.

The military-owned Myawaddy Television said four members of the militia were arrested on Thursday, describing them as “terrorists”.

At least 877 people have been killed by security forces and more than 6,000 arrested since the coup, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group which the junta has declared an illegal organization.

A diplomatic effort by Southeast Asian countries to halt the violence and initiate dialogue between all sides has stalled and the generals say they will stick to their plan of restoring order and holding elections in two years.

In its nightly news bulletin, state-run MRTV reported on the visit of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to Russia, where a military university named him an honorary professor.

Unlike most global powers, Russia has embraced the junta and the country has long been a key source of Myanmar’s weaponry. His visit comes amid international pressure on countries not to sell arms to the military or do business with its vast network of companies.

State media on Thursday carried excerpts from a speech in Russia by Min Aung Hlaing in which he said it was necessary for countries to avoid encroaching on another country’s sovereignty.

“Myanmar is striving for restoring political peace and stability,” it quoted him saying. “The current government is focusing on the reappearance of honesty over democracy.”

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Giles Elgood)

Belarus introduces prison sentences for taking part in protests

(Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday signed into law prison sentences for people taking part in protests or insulting state officials, part of an unprecedented crackdown by the veteran leader since a disputed election last year.

In a series of amendments to the criminal code, Lukashenko also for the first time introduced a four-year prison sentence for people found guilty of spreading false information that discredits the state.

The Russian-backed president also introduced tougher penalties for resisting the police and using protest symbols.

Under the new law, anyone who has been detained at least twice for taking part in a protest, or insulted a government official, faces up to three years in prison, whereas previously they were subjected to detentions or fines.

“This naturally worsens the situation in the field of civil and political rights,” said Valentin Stefanovich of the Viasna-96 human rights group. “These laws are in fact no longer against protests, but against any dissent.”

In power since 1994, Lukashenko launched a violent crackdown against mass protests after winning an election in August that his opponents say was blatantly rigged.

Lukashenko did not comment on the new measures, which parliament had first adopted last month, but in March he had warned of a tougher response to opposition.

“We need to be prepared for manifestations of destructive activity: from calls for illegal strikes to the manipulation of people’s minds through Internet technologies. For each such step we must have adequate response tools in our arsenal.”

Lukashenko has previously signed amendments on laws governing the media, allowing the government to close down media outlets without needing a court order as before.

The European Union is preparing new sanctions on Minsk following the May 23 arrest of dissident Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich after the forced grounding of a Ryanair plane while on a flight from Greece to Lithuania.

A joint delegation from the European Union, the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Japan met Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei in Minsk on Tuesday.

In a statement, the delegation urged Belarus to stop its “inhumane treatment of peaceful protesters and political prisoners”.

(Editing by Matthias Williams and Mark Heinrich)

Myanmar security forces arrest prominent leader of anti-coup campaign

(Reuters) -Myanmar security forces on Thursday arrested one of the main leaders of the campaign against military rule after ramming him with a car as he led a motorbike protest rally, friends and colleagues said.

Opponents of the Feb. 1 coup that ousted an elected government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi have kept up their campaign against the military this traditional New Year week with marches and various other shows of defiance.

“Our brother Wai Moe Naing was arrested. His motorbike was hit by an unmarked police car,” Win Zaw Khiang, a member of a protest organizing group, said on social media.

Wai Moe Naing, a 25-year-old Muslim, has emerged as one of the most high-profile leaders of opposition to the coup.

Earlier, Reuters spoke to him by telephone as he was setting off to lead the rally in the central town of Monywa, about 700 km (435 miles) north of the main city of Yangon.

Video posted on social media showed an oncoming car swerving into a group of motorbikes.

A spokesman for the junta could not be reached for comment.

Monywa has been one of main centers of the pro-democracy campaign with big rallies day after day and repeated crackdowns by the security forces.

Some colleagues said they feared for Wai Moe Naing’s safety.

The Swedish embassy said it was following his case and urged that all detainees be allowed proper health care and their human rights be respected.

The U.S. Embassy also condemned the reported incident.

“This appalling act further demonstrates why the people of Myanmar do not accept the military regime,” the embassy said in a post on Twitter.

PROTESTING MEDICS

In Yangon, security forces detained Myo Aye, director of the Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar, activist Ei Thinzar Maung said on Facebook. Myo Aye has also played a major role in organizing the protests.

State media said a famous actor, Zin Wine, and singer Po Po, both known for their support of the democracy movement, had also been arrested.

The coup has plunged Myanmar into crisis after 10 years of tentative steps toward democracy, with, in addition to the daily protests, strikes by workers in many sectors that have brought the economy to a standstill.

An activist group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, says the security forces have killed 715 protesters since the overthrow of Suu Kyi’s government.

Earlier on Thursday, soldiers opened fire in the city of Mandalay to disperse protesting medical workers and one man was killed and several wounded when security forces fired in a nearby neighborhood, media reported.

Some medical workers have been at the forefront of the campaign against the coup, which for many people has dashed hopes of a more open society after tentative steps towards democracy since the military initiated reforms a decade ago.

State television announced that 20 doctors were among 40 people wanted under a law that makes it illegal to encourage mutiny or dereliction of duty in the security forces. Some 200 people are now wanted under the charge.

The military says the protests are dwindling but thousands joined protests marches and motorbike rallies in several towns, according to pictures posted by media outlets.

The United States and other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions focused on the military and called for the release of Suu Kyi and others detained by the new authorities.

Leaders of Southeast Asian neighbors, which have been trying to encourage talks between the rival Myanmar sides, are due to met in Indonesia on April 24 to discuss the situation, Thai PBS World reported.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is due to attend, the broadcaster said, on what would be his first known trip abroad and contact with foreign leaders since he seized power.

(Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Simon Cameron-Moore and Toby Chopra)

Police kill Black man in Minneapolis suburb, sparking protests near Chauvin trial

By Nicholas Pfosi and Jonathan Allen

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (Reuters) – A police officer in a Minneapolis suburb fatally shot a young Black man during a traffic stop for what his mother said was air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, sparking protests that spilled into Monday morning.

The shooting and subsequent unrest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, came hours before the resumption of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd. The trial began its 11th day on Monday in a courtroom less than 10 miles (16 km) away from the incident.

The Brooklyn Center Police Department said it would hold a briefing at 11 a.m. CDT (1600 GMT) on the shooting.

Relatives and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz identified the man killed by police as Daunte Wright, 20. Walz said in a statement on Sunday that he was monitoring the unrest as “our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told reporters she had received a call from her son on Sunday afternoon telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. She could hear police tell her son to get out the vehicle, she said.

“I heard scuffling, and I heard police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run,'” she said through tears. The call ended. When she dialed his number again, his girlfriend answered and said he was dead in the driver’s seat.

In a statement, Brooklyn Center police said officers pulled over a man for a traffic violation just before 2 p.m., and found he had an outstanding arrest warrant. As police tried to arrest him, he got back in the car. One officer shot the man, who was not identified in the statement. The man drove several blocks before striking another vehicle and dying at the scene.

Late Sunday, a group of about 100 to 200 protesters gathered around the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and threw projectiles at the building, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said in a livestreamed news briefing. The group was later dispersed.

Another group of protesters broke into about 20 businesses at a regional shopping center, with some businesses looted, according to the police and local media reports.

Brooklyn Center’s mayor ordered a curfew until 6 a.m. (1100 GMT) on Monday morning, and the local school superintendent said the district would move to remote learning on Monday “out of an abundance of caution.”

Anti-police protesters have already spent recent days rallying in Minneapolis as the trial of Chauvin enters its third week in a courthouse ringed with barriers and National Guard soldiers.

In response to the protests, Derek Chauvin’s lead attorney, Eric Nelson, renewed his request to have the jury sequestered by having members moved to a hotel. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill again denied the request, saying he would not sequester jurors until they begin deliberations in downtown Minneapolis, which is already heavily fortified against potential unrest.

(Reporting by Nicholas Pfosi in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and Jonathan Allen in Minneapolis; additional reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Security forces fire on Myanmar protests after deadliest day since coup

(Reuters) – Myanmar security forces fired on pro-democracy demonstrators on Monday, killing six people, media and witnesses said, a day after dozens of protesters were shot dead and attackers torched several Chinese-financed factories in the city of Yangon.

Supporters of detained democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi marched again, including in the second city of Mandalay and in the central towns of Myingyan and Aunglan, where police opened fire, witnesses and media reported.

“One girl got shot in the head and a boy got shot in the face,” an 18-year-old protester in Myingyan told Reuters by telephone. “I’m now hiding.”

The Myanmar Now media outlet reported three people were killed in Myingyan and two in Aunglan, while a journalist in Mandalay said one person was shot dead there after a big protest had passed off peacefully.

The protesters took to the streets in defiance of the authorities, whose escalating use of violence resulted in dozens being killed on Sunday in the bloodiest day since the Feb. 1 coup that overthrew Suu Kyi.

State broadcaster MRTV reported martial law had been imposed in several districts of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial hub, and Myanmar Now later reported it had also been imposed in several parts of Mandalay.

Sunday’s arson attacks prompted China’s strongest comments yet on the turmoil gripping its Southeast Asian neighbor, where many people see Beijing as supportive of the coup.

China’s Global Times newspaper said 32 Chinese-invested factories were “vandalized in vicious attacks” that caused damage worth $37 million and injuries to two Chinese employees, while its embassy urged Myanmar’s generals to stop the violence.

“We wish that Myanmar’s authorities can take further relevant and effective measures to guarantee the security of the lives and assets of Chinese companies and personnel,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing.

Japan, which has long competed for influence in Myanmar with China, said it was monitoring the situation and considering how to respond in terms of economic cooperation.

The worst of Sunday’s bloodshed took place in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya, where security forces killed at least 37 protesters after the factory attacks, said a local doctor, who declined to be identified.

At least 16 people were killed in other places, rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said, as well as one policeman.

The deaths bring the toll from the protests to about 140, based on a tally by the AAPP and the latest reports.

A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

In an apparent bid to suppress news of the turmoil, telecoms service providers were ordered to block all mobile data nationwide, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. Telecom Telenor said in a statement “mobile internet was unavailable”.

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in a Nov. 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election, but has not set a date.

COURT SESSION POSTPONED

Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup and faces various charges, including illegally importing walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols. Last week, a charge related to accepting illegal payments was added to the list.

She was due to face another virtual court hearing on Monday but her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters the session could not go ahead because the internet was down. The next hearing will be on March 24, he said.

Khin Maung Zaw also said authorities had informed him the detained Nobel laureate would only be permitted to be represented by two junior lawyers.

Western countries have called for Suu Kyi’s release and condemned the violence and Asian neighbors have offered to help resolve the crisis, but Myanmar has a long record of rejecting outside intervention.

Tom Andrews, the United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar, appealed for U.N. member states to cut the supply of cash and weapons to the military.

The International Labor Organization said trade unionists have been arrested and harassed in door-to-door searches while others are in hiding. The International Trade Union Confederation reported widespread restrictions on workers’ rights since the coup.

Anti-China sentiment has risen since the coup, fueled by Beijing’s muted criticism of the takeover compared with Western condemnation. But protest leader Thinzar Shunlei Yi said Myanmar people did not hate their Chinese neighbors though their rulers had to understand the outrage felt over their stand.

“Chinese government must stop supporting coup council if they actually care about Sino-Myanmar relations and to protect their businesses,” she said on Twitter.

Tom Andrews, the United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar, appealed for U.N. member states to cut the supply of cash and weapons to the military.

The International Labor Organization said trade unionists have been arrested and harassed in door-to-door searches while others are in hiding. The International Trade Union Confederation reported widespread restrictions on workers’ rights since the coup.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies and Rob Birsel; Editing by Stephen Coates, Simon Cameron-Moore and Angus MacSwan)

‘We are at war:’ Poles mark Women’s Day after abortion rules tightened

By Alicja Ptak and Joanna Plucinska

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poles took to the streets on Monday to mark International Women’s Day, in demonstrations around the country that took on added significance months after a constitutional court banned almost all abortions.

The October ruling, which took effect in January, unleashed a wave of protests that has morphed into broader anger at the government, particularly among young people. Recent protests have been much smaller, but the ruling party’s ratings in most opinion polls have slipped to around 30% from more than 40% in August.

In Warsaw, several dozen protesters brandishing placards with slogans such as “I am a feminist warrior” gathered in the city center, where they were outnumbered by a heavy police presence.

Previous protests organized by the Women’s Strike movement, which opposes the tightening of restrictions regarding abortion, have been marred by violence, with the police criticized for heavy-handed tactics.

“It is difficult to say anything positive about Women’s Day today. We are at war and all I can hope for is that we will win the war,” Klementyna Suchanow, co-founder of the Women’s Strike told Reuters before the demonstration began.

“Women’s Day in 2021 has a specific flavor,” she said. “After the abortion regulations were tightened, this holiday takes on the significance of a battle, just like in the beginning when it was first established, over a 100 years ago.”

As police formed a cordon around the protestors, speech therapist Aleksandra Gajek, 24, called it an intimidation tactic. “The number of police is intended to scare us and force us to stop fighting for our rights,” she told Reuters.

The police was trying to keep traffic moving, spokesman Sylwester Marczak said by phone. “The actions of the police are determined by the blocking of traffic on one of the most important roundabouts in Warsaw.”

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Alicja Ptak and Kuba Stezycki; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Richard Chang)

Myanmar police break up protests again after bloodiest day since coup

(Reuters) – Police in Myanmar broke up demonstrations in several places with tear gas and gunfire on Thursday as protesters took to the streets again undeterred by the rising death toll in a crackdown on opponents of last month’s military coup.

The incidents followed the bloodiest day since the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with the United Nations special envoy for Myanmar saying 38 people had been killed on Wednesday.

The U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, called on the security forces to halt what she called their “vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters”.

At least 54 people had been killed in total but the actual toll could be much higher, she said. More than 1,700 people had been arrested, including 29 journalists.

“Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protesters,” Bachelet said in a statement.

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

The army seized power alleging fraud in an election won by Suu Kyi’s party last November, although the electoral commission dismissed its claims. It has defended measures to quell protests and said it will not let Myanmar’s stability be threatened.

Activists said they refused to accept military rule and the new elections promised by the junta, voicing determination to press for the release of the detained Suu Kyi, 75, and recognition of her election victory.

“We know that we can always get shot and killed with live bullets but there is no meaning to staying alive under the junta,” activist Maung Saungkha told Reuters.

Police opened fire and used tear gas to break up protests in Yangon and the central town of Monywa, witnesses said. Police also fired in the town of Pathein, west of Yangon, and used tear gas in Taunggyi in the east, media reported.

Big crowds also gathered peacefully for rallies elsewhere, including the second city of Mandalay and in the historic temple town of Bagan, where hundreds marched carrying pictures of Suu Kyi and a banner saying: “Free our leader,” witnesses said.

“EVERYTHING WILL BE OK” PROTESTER MOURNED

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of a 19-year-old woman shot dead in Mandalay on Wednesday, who was photographed wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK”..

On Wednesday, police and soldiers had opened fire with live rounds with little warning in several cities and towns, witnesses said. The United Nations said at least 38 people were killed.

“Myanmar’s security forces now seem intent on breaking the back of the anti-coup movement through wanton violence and sheer brutality,” said Richard Weir, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party said in a statement that flags would fly at half mast at its offices to commemorate the dead.

The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the situation on Friday in a closed meeting, diplomats said.

The U.S. State Department said Washington was “appalled” by the violence and was evaluating how to respond. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was horrified by the escalation of violence and killing of protesters.

The European Union suspended support for development projects to avoid providing financial assistance to the military, officials said on Thursday. The support in past years has involved more than 200 million euros ($240.7 million) in separate programs often running for four years.

Myanmar’s generals have long shrugged off outside pressure.

The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said on Wednesday she had warned deputy military chief Soe Win that the army was likely to face strong measures from some countries over the coup.

“The answer was: ‘We are used to sanctions, and we survived’,” she told reporters in New York. “When I also warned they will go (into) isolation, the answer was: ‘We have to learn to walk with only few friends’.”

The United States has told China, which has declined to condemn the coup, it expects it to play a constructive role. China has said stability is a top priority in its strategic neighbor.

At least 19 Myanmar police officers have crossed over into India, fearing persecution for disobeying orders, a senior Indian police official told Reuters.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Stephen Coates and Angus MacSwan)

Supporters of Myanmar military coup rampage in Yangon

(Reuters) – Supporters of Myanmar’s military, some armed with knives and clubs, others firing catapults and throwing stones, attacked opponents of the Feb. 1 coup on Thursday, as protests against the new junta continued in the country’s largest city.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained civilian government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership after the military complained of fraud in a November election.

Protests and strikes have taken place daily for about three weeks, and students had planned to come out again in the commercial hub Yangon on Thursday.

But before many coup opponents congregated, about 1,000 supporters of the military turned up for a rally in the city center.

Some threatened news photographers and media workers witnesses said, and scuffles soon escalated into more serious violence in several parts of the city.

Several people were set upon and beaten by groups of men, some armed with knives, others firing catapults and hurling stones, witnesses said. At least two people were stabbed, video footage showed.

In one incident, several men, one wielding a large knife, attacked a man outside a city-center hotel. Emergency workers helped the bloodied man after his attackers moved off but his condition was not known.

“Today’s events show who the terrorists are. They’re afraid of the people’s action for democracy,” activist Thin Zar Shun Lei Yi told Reuters.

“We’ll continue our peaceful protests against dictatorship.”

As dusk fell, dozens of riot police fired tear gas into a neighborhood in the city to disperse a crowd that had gathered at an administrative office to protest the appointment of a local official by the junta, according to a witness and live-streamed video.

The violence will compound worries about a country largely paralyzed by the protests and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes against the military.

Earlier, police blocked the gates of Yangon’s main university campus, stopping hundreds of students inside from coming out to demonstrate.

Facebook said that due to the risks evident from the “deadly violence” seen since the coup it had banned the Myanmar military from using its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

The spokesman for the ruling military council did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment.

Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing says authorities are using minimal force. Nevertheless, three protesters and one policeman have been killed in violence.

‘ABETTORS’

The United States, Britain and others have called for Suu Kyi’s release and the restoration of democracy and have imposed limited sanctions aimed at members of the junta and its business links.

The British Foreign Office said on Thursday it would sanction a further six military figures, adding to 19 previously listed and including Min Aung Hlaing, and that the trade ministry would work to ensure British businesses do not deal with Myanmar’s military-owned companies.

“Today’s package of measures sends a clear message to the military regime in Myanmar that those responsible for human rights violations will be held to account, and the authorities must hand back control to a government elected by the people of Myanmar,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

A rights group said as of Wednesday 728 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced in relation to the pro-democracy protests.

The army said its overthrow of the government was within the constitution after its complaints of fraud in the Nov. 8 election, swept by Suu Kyi’s party as expected, had been ignored. The election commission said the vote was fair.

The army has promised a new election after reviewing voter lists. It has not given a date but it imposed a one-year state of emergency when it seized power.

Suu Kyi has been detained incommunicado at her home in the capital Naypyitaw but her party says its November victory must be respected.

Veteran democracy activist Min Ko Naing said the military’s efforts to arrange to an election re-run, which include a new election commission, had to be stopped and any parties involved in it were “abettors”.

“We have to reject the actions of the military government to try to legitimize itself,” he said in a post on Facebook.

The question of a new election is at the center of a diplomatic effort by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, aimed at easing the crisis.

Indonesia has taken the lead in the attempt and its foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, met her military-appointed Myanmar counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, for talks in Thailand on Wednesday.

But Indonesia’s intervention has raised suspicion among coup opponents who fear it will confer legitimacy on the junta and its bid to scrap the November vote and arrange a re-run.

Retno did not mention an election in comments to reporters after her talks but emphasized “an inclusive democratic transition process.”

A Reuters report this week cited sources as saying Indonesia was proposing that ASEAN members send monitors to ensure the generals stick to their promise of fair elections, which would imply accepting the November result was void.

Protesters gathered outside the Thai embassy in Yangon on Thursday chanting “respect our vote”.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies and Rob Birsel; Editing by Angus MacSwan)