More killings in Myanmar as junta says protests will destroy country

Firemen putting out a blaze at the Chinese-owned JOC Garment Factory in Yangon yesterday. There were no reports of casualties. PHOTO: REUTERS
Firemen putting out a blaze at the Chinese-owned JOC Garment Factory in Yangon yesterday. There were no reports of casualties. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON • Myanmar troops fired at anti-coup protesters yesterday, killing at least 13 people and wounding several, local media said, as a series of small blasts hit the commercial capital Yangon and a Chinese-owned factory was set on fire.

At least seven small explosions were heard in Yangon, including at government buildings, a military hospital and a shopping mall, residents said. There were no casualties and no claims of responsibility. The US embassy in Yangon said it had received reports of "handmade 'sound bombs', or fireworks meant to create noise and cause minimal damage".

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the junta, said in a statement published yesterday that the civil disobedience movement or CDM had halted the working of hospitals, schools, roads, offices and factories.

"Although protests are staged in neighbouring countries and the international community, they do not destroy businesses," he said, adding: "CDM is an activity to destroy the country."

The accusation came as a group representing Myanmar's ousted civilian government yesterday said it has gathered 180,000 pieces of evidence showing rights abuses by the junta, including torture and extrajudicial killings.

A lawyer for the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw - a group of MPs from Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party - met UN investigators to discuss alleged atrocities by the junta.

They include more than 540 extrajudicial executions, 10 deaths of prisoners, torture, illegal detentions and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protests, the group said in a statement.

According to the Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group, 581 people have been shot dead by troops and police in almost daily unrest since the Feb 1 coup, and security forces have arrested close to 3,500 people, with 2,750 still detained.

Security forces yesterday opened fire on protesters in the north-western town of Kale who were demanding the restoration of Ms Suu Kyi's civilian government.

A resident of the area and the Myanmar Now news outlet said 11 people were killed and several wounded. Two protesters were also killed in the town of Bago, near Yangon, Myanmar Now said.

Separately, a fire broke out at the Chinese-owned JOC Garment Factory in Yangon. There were no reports of casualties and no details on the extent of damage. And in another Yangon neighbourhood, activists set fire to the Chinese flag.

China is viewed as being supportive of the military junta and last month there were arson attacks against 32 Chinese-invested factories in Yangon.

The ability of the protest movement to organise campaigns and share information has been severely hamstrung by curbs on broadband wireless Internet and mobile data services. With print media also halted, protesters have sought workarounds to get their message across, producing their own A4-sized daily news pamphlets that are shared digitally and printed for distribution.

Arrest warrants have been issued for hundreds of people, with the junta going after scores of artists, influencers, entertainers and musicians earlier this week. The country's most famous comedian, Zarganar, was arrested on Tuesday, media reported.

Meanwhile, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has discussed how his country and the international community could support an Asean effort to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, after meeting her British counterpart in Jakarta.

Thailand has said it did not agree with the violence but the problem had to be addressed carefully. "We cannot really do what we want because we have shared borders and we need to live and rely on each other on many areas," said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

And Fitch Solutions said in a report yesterday that targeted Western sanctions alone were unlikely to succeed in restoring democracy in Myanmar. It predicted a violent revolution in the medium term pitting the military against an armed opposition comprising members of the anti-coup movement and ethnic militias.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2021, with the headline 'More killings in Myanmar as junta says protests will destroy country'. Subscribe