Myanmar police fire to disperse protest

·3-min read

Myanmar police have used force to disperse protests against military rule and one woman is in critical condition and not expected to survive after being shot in the head with a bullet, a doctor says.

Police fired guns, mostly into the air, and used water cannon and rubber bullets to try to clear protesters in the capital Naypyitaw.

Four people were taken to hospital with what doctors initially said they believed were wounds caused by rubber bullets.

One of them, a woman, had what was most likely a fatal head wound, said a doctor who declined to be identified. The bullet could be seen lodged in her in an X-ray, the doctor said.

"She hasn't passed away yet, she's in the emergency unit, but it's 100 per cent certain the injury is fatal," he said.

"According to the X-ray, it's a live bullet."

A man had a chest wound but was not in critical condition. It was not clear if he was hit with a bullet or rubber bullet, the doctor said.

Protesters have taken to the streets in cities and towns in the largest demonstrations in Myanmar for more than a decade against a February 1 military coup that ousted the elected government of veteran democracy campaigner, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi's government was about to begin its second term after her National League for Democracy (NLD) swept a November 8 election.

The military cited election fraud as justification for its takeover. The electoral commission dismissed accusations of fraud.

Earlier, witnesses said police fired guns into the air in Naypyitaw as a crowd refused to disperse. Police then fired water cannon at the protesters, who responded with stones, the witness said.

Video footage posted on social media apparently of the woman who was killed, showed her with some other protesters by what appeared to be a bus-stop shelter some distance from a row of riot police as a water cannon sprayed and several shots could be heard.

The woman, wearing a motorbike helmet, suddenly collapsed. Pictures on social media of her helmet showed what appeared to be a bullet hole.

Earlier, video from the central town of Bago showed police confronting a crowd and blasting them with jets from water cannon.

Police arrested at least 27 demonstrators in the second-biggest city of Mandalay, domestic media reported.

Promises on Monday from junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing to eventually hold a new election in his first address since seizing power drew scorn. He repeated unproven accusations of fraud in the election.

Min Aung Hlaing said the junta would form a "true and disciplined democracy", different to previous eras of military rule, which brought years of isolation and poverty.

"We will have a multiparty election and we will hand the power to the one who wins," he said.

He gave no time frame but the junta has said a state of emergency would last one year.

Orders banning gatherings of more than four people and a curfew from 8pm and 4am have been imposed on Yangon and Mandalay.

A growing civil disobedience movement affecting hospitals, schools and government offices shows no sign of ending.

Western governments have widely condemned the coup, although there has been little concrete action to press the generals.

The UN Security Council has called for the release of Suu Kyi and others. The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy and spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.

The 75-year-old faces is being held in detention until February 15.

Suu Kyi remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority.