Eleven killed as Myanmar protesters ‘fight soldiers with rifles’

Local media say residents of a northwest town used guns, knives, firebombs as security forces attempted to quell a huge protest.

Anti-coup protesters run to avoid military forces during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar on Wednesday March 31, 2021 [File: AP]

At least 11 people have been killed in a northwestern town in Myanmar, local media reported, as security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters who fought back with hunting rifles and firebombs.

The Myanmar Now and Irrawaddy news sites said on Thursday that six truckloads of troops were deployed to quell a huge protest in the town of Taze on Wednesday. When the protesters fought back with guns, knives and firebombs, five more truckloads of troop reinforcements were brought in.

Fighting continued into Thursday morning and at least 11 protesters were killed and about 20 wounded, the media said.

There was no word of any casualties among the soldiers.

That would take the toll of civilians killed by security forces to over 600 since the Myanmar military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Taze is near the town of Kale, where at least 11 people were killed in a similar clash on Wednesday, according to news media and witnesses. Security forces fired live rounds, grenades, and machine guns on protesters who were demanding the restoration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, AAPP said.

In Yangon, the country’s biggest city, activists placed shoes filled with flowers to commemorate dead protesters.

The military, which is hunting some 120 celebrities for speaking out against the coup, arrested a prominent actor, singer and model, according to his sister. Paing Takhon, 24, was taken from his mother’s home in the North Dagon area of Yangon early Thursday, his sister Thi Thi Lwin posted on Facebook.

“As he’s seriously ill, they arrested him calmly without violence. We do not know where he’s taken,” she added. Thi Thi Lwin said the actor had been suffering from malaria and a heart condition.

The country’s most famous comedian, Zarganar, was also arrested on Tuesday, media reported. AAPP has said 2,847 people were currently being held in detention.

‘Coup in the middle of London’

Overseas, diplomatic tussles re-emerged on Wednesday.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Kyaw Zwar Minn, said he had been locked out of the embassy, with sources saying his deputy had shut him out and taken charge on behalf of the military.

Kyaw Zwar Minn has broken ranks with the ruling military in recent weeks, calling for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It’s a kind of coup, in the middle of London… you can see that they occupy my building,” he told Reuters news agency.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday condemned the “bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime” and praised the ambassador’s “courage”. But it was unclear what, if anything, the UK could do about the move.

There have also been similar counterclaims in embassies in other global centres and at the United Nations.

Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn stands outside the Myanmar Embassy in London, April 8, 2021 [Toby Melville/ Reuters]

Meanwhile, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup, said in a statement on Wednesday that the civil disobedience movement, or CDM, had halted the working of hospitals, schools, roads, offices and factories.

“CDM is an activity to destroy the country,” he said.

Fitch Solutions, a consulting company, said in a report that Western sanctions targeting the military were unlikely to succeed in restoring democracy, but said the army was losing control.

It predicted a violent revolution pitting the military against an armed opposition comprised of members of the anti-coup movement and ethnic militias.

“The escalating violence on civilians and ethnic militias show that the Tatmadaw (military) is increasingly losing control of the country,” it said.

The vast majority of people back Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government, it added.

Aung San Suu Kyi and leading figures in her National League for Democracy party, which won an election in November that was annulled by the coup, are currently in detention facing various charges.

The United Nations’ special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, hopes to visit the country in the next few days, a UN spokesman said in New York.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies