Security forces in central Myanmar opened fire on anti-coup protesters on Saturday in acts of violence that, according to a human rights group, have killed 550 civilians since the military seizure of power.
Of these, 46 were children, according to the Myanmar Political Prisoners Assistance Association. Some 2,751 people have been arrested or sentenced, the group said.
Threats of deadly violence and arrests of protesters have failed to suppress daily demonstrations across Myanmar demanding that the military resign and reinstate the democratically elected government.
Government forces fired at protesters in the central Myanmar city of Monywa, according to social media posts. One video showed a group of protesters carrying off a young man with what appeared to be a serious head injury, as shots rang out. His status was not immediately known.
Late on Friday, armed plainclothes police detained five people after they spoke to a CNN reporter in a Yangon market, local media reported, citing witnesses. The arrests occurred in three separate incidents.
Two women reportedly shouted for help while being arrested, Myanmar Now news service reported. A police officer, who was carrying a pistol, asked if “anyone dared to help them,” a witness told the news service.
“They pointed their guns at everyone, passersby and people in the store,” said a witness of two policemen who forcibly took two other women into the market.
Meanwhile, the Karen National Union, representing the ethnic minority rebel group that has been fighting the government for decades, condemned the “continuous bombing and airstrikes” against villages and “unarmed civilians” in their homeland throughout the border with Thailand.
“The attacks have caused the death of many people, including children and students, and the destruction of schools, residences and villages. These terrorist acts are clearly a flagrant violation of local and international laws, ”the group said.
In Karen-controlled areas, more than a dozen civilians have died and at least 20,000 have been displaced since March 27, according to Free Burma Rangers, an aid agency operating in the region.
About 3,000 Karen fled to Thailand, but many returned in unclear circumstances. Thai authorities said they returned voluntarily, but aid groups say they are not safe and many are hiding in the jungle and in caves on the Myanmar side of the border.
More than a dozen minority groups have sought greater autonomy from the central government for decades, sometimes through armed struggle. Several of the major groups, including the Kachin army, Karen and Rakhine Arakan, have denounced the coup and said they will defend the protesters on their territories.
After weeks of overnight internet outages, the Myanmar military on Friday shut down all links except those using fiber optic cable, which operated at drastically reduced speeds. Access to mobile networks and all things wireless, the least expensive options used by most people in the country, remained blocked on Saturday.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades languished under a strict military regime that led to isolation and international sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to leadership in the 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and pouring investment into the country.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism