Myanmar's military calls for country to unite as UN claims live ammunition used against protesters

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Myanmar's coup leader has called for the nation to "join hands" with the military if they want democracy.

Protesters are likely to reject the suggestion as they continue to push for their country's elected leaders to be released from detention.

The message comes as the United Nations said there were "growing reports, photographic evidence" that security forces had violated international law by using live ammunition against demonstrators.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing launched a coup on 1 February to oust the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, reversing nearly a decade of progress toward democracy after 50 years of military rule.

In a message published in the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper, Min Aung Hlaing said: "I would seriously urge the entire nation to join hands with the Tatmadaw [the military] for the successful realisation of democracy.

"Historical lessons have taught us that only national unity can ensure the non-disintegration of the union and the perpetuation of sovereignty."

He released the message on the country's Union Day holiday, which celebrates the date in 1947 when many of Myanmar's ethnic groups agreed to unify following decades of British colonial rule.

The general announced officials would mark the event by releasing thousands of prisoners and reducing other inmates' sentences.

The UN Security Council has said it is considering imposing sanctions, arms embargoes and travel bans in reaction to the military coup.

More than 350 people in Myanmar including officials and activists have been detained since the coup, with several facing charges on "dubious grounds", the UN said.

The council also called the military rulers' orders against gatherings - aimed at shutting down protests - "draconian" and said the presence of soldiers on the streets was growing.

Widespread protests have broken out across several cities despite the orders, with police using water cannons and rubber bullets to fire at protesters.

The military has argued it was forced to organise a coup because Ms Suu Kyi's government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in the November elections.

However, the election commission said there is no evidence to support these claims.