Death toll in Myanmar’s post-coup crackdown surpasses 300

Monitoring group says 320 people have been killed as military tries to suppress protests with many shot in the head.

More than 300 people have died in Myanmar's anti-coup protests amid increasing violence by the security forces [File: Reuters]

Some 34 more people have been killed in Myanmar, taking the civilian death toll in the security forces’ crackdown on anti-coup protests to 320, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is tracking deaths and arrests, said in its latest update on Thursday.

The AAPP said it had documented additional deaths across Myanmar including Yangon, its biggest city and ethnic minority areas in the country’s borderlands.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, the organisation said a 16 year old died after being shot in the back and some ambulances were also fired on.

The AAPP said the actual number of those killed was likely to be much higher.

“Crimes against humanity are committed daily,” it said. It was not possible to verify the incidents individually.

The military crackdown has drawn outrage and prompted some sanctions from Western countries, including the United States, which on Thursday condemned the generals for their violence after a 7-year-old girl was killed this week, the youngest victim of the crackdown.

“These abhorrent and brutal acts against children, one as young as seven years old who was shot and killed in her home while sitting on her father’s lap, further demonstrate the horrific nature of the Burmese military regime’s assault on its own people and its complete disregard for the lives of the people of Burma,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Condemning the security forces’ actions “in the strongest terms”, Price said: “The regime cannot govern through terror.”

The military denies using excessive force and says that its actions have met international norms in the face of a situation it says is a threat to national security.

On Tuesday, a military spokesman said 164 protesters and nine members of the security forces had been killed.

The AAPP data shows at least 25 percent of those who were killed died from shots to the head. Full data is not available for every death.

Nearly 90 percent of the dead were male and about a third aged 24 or under.

Save the Children says at least 20 children have been killed in the protests, which show little sign of abating despite the increasing use of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live rounds.

On Friday, a fire broke out at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Myanmar’s elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested by the generals on February 1 as they moved to seize power.

An attacker hurled a Molotov cocktail at its Yangon headquarters, causing a brief fire, in the early hours of the morning, according to a party official.

“When the residents nearby knew about the fire, they called the fire service department to put it out … it was under control by around 5am (22:30 GMT),” Soe Win, an NLD member in charge of the headquarters, told the AFP news agency.

“It seems that someone lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the headquarters.”

The incident comes on the eve of Armed Forces Day, when the military will put on a show of strength with its annual parade.

Fears have been swirling that it could become a flashpoint for an escalation in violence.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies