Several people have been reported killed and others wounded after Myanmar security forces rammed a car into an anti-coup protest in Yangon, witnesses and local media reported.
Sunday’s protest was one of at least three held in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, and similar rallies were reported in other parts of the country a day ahead of an expected verdict in the first of several criminal cases against the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained by the generals when they seized power on February 1.
More than 1,300 people have been killed in a military crackdown on opposition since the coup, but protests have continued, usually in smaller groups and flash mobs.
Photos and videos circulating on social media appeared to show a military vehicle that accelerated down the street, crashing through the protesters and sending people scattering.
According to local media outlet Myanmar Now, at least five people were killed and 15 others were arrested. Dozens of others were injured, witnesses told the Reuters news agency.
“They increased the speed when they got closer to the protesters – it was like they drove into them,” a journalist told the AFP news agency, declining to provide his name for security reasons.
He said a handful of people, some carrying banners in support of Aung San Suu Kyi, were hit and splayed on the ground as others fled the scene. “Then the soldiers jumped out of the car and started shooting,” he added.
Witnesses said the “flash mob” protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was rammed minutes after it started.
“I got hit and fell down in front of a truck. A soldier beat me with his rifle but I defended and pushed him back. Then he immediately shot at me as I ran away in a zigzag pattern. Fortunately, I escaped,” a protester who asked not to be identified for security reasons told Reuters by phone.
The parallel National Unity Government, established by politicians including those thrown out of office by the coup, said it was heartbroken to see peaceful protesters crushed and shot to death.
“We will strongly respond to the terrorist military who brutally, inhumanly killed the unarmed peaceful protesters,” the NUG’s defence ministry said in a statement on social media after Sunday’s attack.
#Myanmar security forces rammed a car into a peaceful protest on Sunday. The International Criminal Court should hold military perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes accountable in Myanmar. (WARNING: Graphic content) pic.twitter.com/rKOtvIkx8d
— Fortify Rights (@FortifyRights) December 6, 2021
(WARNING: Graphic content)
A spokesman for the military did not answer calls seeking comment on Sunday.
Another protest was held in Yangon in the afternoon despite the morning violence.
The military has previously said that protesters who have been killed instigated the violence. It says it staged the coup because a November election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was rigged. The election commission has dismissed the claim.
Wars with ethnic minority fighters in remote frontier regions in the north and east have intensified significantly since the coup, displacing tens of thousands of civilians, according to United Nations estimates.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, faces a dozen cases against her including incitement and violations of COVID-19 protocols.