(Reuters) – Myanmar security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protests on Saturday killing at least five people, a protester and the media said, as the army stepped up its bid to quell dissent with orders. arrest for 20 other high-profile critics.
Despite the murder of more than 550 people by security forces since the February 1 coup, protesters come out every day, often in small groups in small towns, to express their opposition to the overthrow of an elected government. headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. and the return of the military government.
Security forces in the central city of Monywa, which has witnessed daily protests for weeks, fired into a crowd, killing at least four people and wounding several, two media outlets said.
“They started firing non-stop stun grenades and real rounds,” the protester in Monywa, who declined to be named, told Reuters via a messaging app.
“People backed away and quickly put up… barriers, but a bullet hit a person in front of me, in the head. He died on the spot. “
A man was shot and killed in the southern city of Thaton, residents and online news portal Bago Weekly Journal reported. Police also opened fire in the central city of Bago, wounding one man.
Protests also took place in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, and in the northern city of Hpakant, media reported.
Police and a board spokesperson did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
The army has said the dead instigated the violence. He says he organized the coup because the November elections won by Suu Kyi’s party were rigged. The electoral commission has dismissed the claim.
The activist group Association for the Assistance to Political Prisoners, in a statement the previous Saturday, said that security forces had killed 550 people, 46 of them children, since the coup.
“People keep protesting every day because we firmly believe that this is a fight between good and evil,” said protest leader Tayzar San in an audio message to Reuters.
State media announced that authorities had issued court orders for 20 other celebrities, including social media influencers, singers and models, under a law against incitement to dissent in the military, leading to the number of warrants. issued to high-profile democratic activists during the last day to 38.
The charge can carry a prison sentence of three years.
SILENCE THE VOICES?
One of those wanted, actress Paing Phyoe Thu, who attended demonstrations in the main city of Yangon in the weeks after the coup, said she would not be intimidated.
“Whether a court order has been issued or not, as long as I am alive I will oppose the military dictatorship that is intimidating and killing people. The revolution must prevail, ”he said on Facebook. His whereabouts were not immediately known.
Military teams were also looking for the protest leaders and several “unscrupulous” people with homemade weapons had been arrested, state media said.
The military is also conducting a campaign to control the flow of information, ordering Internet providers to cut wireless broadband starting Friday, depriving most customers of access, although some messages and images are still being used. they published and shared.
The United States and other Western countries have denounced the coup and called for the release of Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign against the military regime. She has been accused of violating an act of official secrecy that is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The United States also condemned the shutdown of the Internet.
“We hope this does not silence the voices of the people,” a State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said in a briefing.
The coup has reignited old wars with ethnic minority forces seeking autonomy in the north and east.
Myanmar’s oldest insurgent group, the Karen National Union (KNU), has seen the first military airstrikes against its forces in more than 20 years, after announcing its support for the pro-democracy movement.
The KNU, which signed a ceasefire with the government in 2012, said that more than 12,000 villagers had fled their homes due to the airstrikes. He called for an international embargo on the sale of arms to the military.
Media reported that some 20 people have been killed in airstrikes in KNU territory in recent days, including nearly a dozen at a group-run gold mine.
Clashes have also broken out in the north between the army and ethnic Kachin insurgents. The unrest has caused several thousand refugees to flee to Thailand and India.
Reuters staff reports; Written by Robert Birsel; Edited by Edwina Gibbs, William Mallard and Ros Russell