Seven people were killed when security forces opened fire on anti-junta protests in Myanmar on Thursday, witnesses and local media said, as rights group Amnesty International accused the military of adopting battle tactics against demonstrators.
Six people were killed in the central town of Myaing when forces fired on a protest, one man who took part in the demonstration and helped carry bodies to hospital, told Reuters by telephone. A health worker there confirmed all six deaths.
“We protested peacefully,” the 31-year-old man said. “I couldn’t believe they did it.”
One person was killed in the North Dagon district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, domestic media said. Photographs posted on Facebook showed a man lying prone on the street, bleeding from a head wound.
Before Thursday’s deaths, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group has said more than 60 protesters have been killed and about 2,000 people detained by security forces since the Feb. 1 coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
Amnesty International accused the army of using lethal force against protesters and said many killings documented amounted to extrajudicial executions.
“These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions,” said Joanne Mariner, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.
“These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open.”
A junta spokesman declined to give an immediate comment, but said there would be a news conference held by the military’s council in the capital Naypyitaw at 2 pm. (0730 GMT) on Thursday.
The junta has previously said it is acting with utmost restraint in handling what it describes as demonstrations by “riotous protesters” whom it accuses of attacking police and harming national security and stability.
Protests were also staged in half a dozen other towns, according to Facebook posts.
Overnight, people defied a curfew to hold several more candle lit vigils in parts of Yangon and also in Myingyan, south west of the second city of Mandalay.
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday condemned violence against protesters and urged the army to show restraint, but failed to denounce the military takeover as a coup or threaten further action due to opposition from China and Russia.
U.S. sanctions general’s children
State media said the junta had removed Arakan Army (AA) insurgents from its list of terrorist groups because the faction has stopped attacks and in order to help establish peace across the country.
The move comes at a time the army is struggling to contain daily protests against the coup.
The AA is fighting for greater autonomy in the western Rakhine state and had become one of the most formidable forces in challenging an army that has been fighting various ethnic wars for seven decades.
In a bid to increase pressure on the military as it continues its crackdown, the U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two children of military leader Min Aung Hlaing and six companies they control.
In New York, the United Nations Security Council condemned violence against peaceful protesters and called for the military to “exercise utmost restraint”.
But language that would have condemned the coup and threatened possible further action was removed from the British-drafted text, due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the Security Council statement would push the military to realize it “is absolutely essential” that all prisoners are released and that the results of a November election are respected.
The army has justified the coup by saying that the election, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, was marred by fraud – an assertion rejected by the electoral commission. The junta has promised a new election within a year, but has not set a date.
(Reporting by Reuters Staff Writing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)