A Facebook post from the Bago University Students’ Union said the military had charged 120,000 Myanmar kyat ($ 85) families for retrieving the bodies of relatives who died. Bachelet said there were also reports that the military “prevented medical personnel from helping the wounded.”
“There are clear echoes of Syria in 2011. There, too, we saw peaceful protests with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate violence,” she said. “The brutal, sustained state repression against its own population led some individuals to take up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence across the country.”
Bachelet said countries “should not allow the deadly mistakes of the past to be repeated in Syria and elsewhere.”
More than 700 people, including children, have been killed since the military overthrew Myanmar’s elected government in a Feb. 1 coup, according to AAPP. Since then, junta security forces, made up of police, soldiers and elite anti-insurgent forces, have begun a systematic crackdown on unarmed and peaceful protesters, detaining about 3,000 people, often during night raids, and forcing activists into hiding.
Bachelet’s statement came when anti-coup activists called for a week of protests to coincide with the annual New Year holiday known as Thingyan. Tuesday marked the first day of the five-day holiday, which is usually celebrated with prayers, ritual cleansing of Buddha images in temples, and jubilant public water fights in the streets.
Instead of the traditional water festivities and dance performances, opponents of the coup said they would not celebrate this year and show their anger at the generals who conquered the country through subdued displays of resistance and petty protests, Reuters said.
“We are not celebrating Myanmar Thingyan this year as more than 700 of our innocent brave souls have been murdered,” said a Twitter user named Shwe Ei, reported Reuters.
In several cities, protesters walked the streets with traditional Thingyan pots containing seven flowers and twigs on display at this time of the year. Many people painted the protesters’ three-fingered greeting on their pots. Others defaced messages such as “Save Myanmar” in silent demonstrations of opposition to the military, Reuters said.
In some parts, however, the violence continued. In the city of Tamu in the northern region of Sagaing on Myanmar’s border with India, junta forces raided barricades and fired on people’s homes, AAPP reported. A man and a woman were shot by soldiers while delivering milk in the city, AAPP and several other local media outlets reported.
CNN has contacted the Myanmar military for comment.
Daily internet restrictions on wireless data and broadband services have caused information to dwindle, especially in areas far from major cities.
In her statement, Bachelet said that the “vast majority of people” “do not have access to essential information and communication resources.”
“The mass arrests have forced hundreds of people into hiding, and reports suggest that many journalists, civil society activists, celebrities and other public figures are being sought, many simply because of the disagreements they have voiced online,” she said.
On Tuesday, Myawaddy TV, a news channel owned by the Myanmar military, aired photos of 20 health workers allegedly charged with sedition for involvement in the anti-coup Civil Disobedience Movement. Since the coup began, medics have been at the forefront of protests against military rule, and junta forces have targeted health workers, ambulances and occupied dozens of hospitals.
In recent weeks, the junta has broadcast a “wanted list” on the 8:00 pm broadcast featuring photos of celebrities, journalists, actors and artists charged under section 505 (a) of the Criminal Code.
The legislation makes it a crime to “hinder, disrupt, damage” the motivation, discipline, health, behavior “of government employees and military personnel and cause their hatred, disobedience, or disloyalty” towards the government or the military.
The coup ended Myanmar’s gradual opening up to democracy, which saw a decade of reform after half a century of military rule. In addition to street protests and acts of resistance against the junta, thousands of striking workers and civil servants are participating in the civil disobedience movement that is disrupting the economy.
“The country’s economy, education and health infrastructure are on the brink of collapse, leaving millions of people in Myanmar without livelihoods, basic services and increasingly food security,” said Bachelet.
She called on influential countries to stop the supply of weapons and finance to the Myanmar military in order to “stop the commission of serious human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.”
“Convictions and limited targeted sanctions are clearly not enough,” she said.
CNN’s Angus Watson and Reuters contributed to the report.