Myanmar protesters stage rallies as army accused of using battle tactics

YANGON (REUTERS) – Protesters took to the streets in several parts of Myanmar on Thursday (March 11), defying an increasingly brutal crackdown by security forces that rights group Amnesty International says are now adopting battle tactics against demonstrators.

More than 60 protesters have been killed and some 2,000 people have been detained by security forces since the Feb 1 coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, an advocacy group said.

Social media posts showed pro-democracy protesters marching in the town of Tamu in Chin State on Thursday chanting: “Will we revolt or will we serve them? We will revolt.”

A Reuters witness said there was also a small rally in the Sanchaung area of Yangon, a district where security forces this week fired guns and used stun grenades as they checked houses to hunt down protesters.

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 UN 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.

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 Ms 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 2pm. (0730 GMT or 3.30pm Singapore time) 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.

US 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.

On Wednesday, security forces firing teargas and rubber bullets trapped hundreds of anti-junta protesters late into the night in two districts of Yangon.

Some protesters who managed to evade blockades set up by police in surrounding streets told of scores of arrests and said that some of those who got caught were beaten.

In a bid to increase pressure on the military as it continues its crackdown, the US 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.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the Security Council statement would push the military to realise 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.

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