Protests, accusations against Myanmar junta ahead of coup anniversary

In a photo taken on June 11, 2021, protesters march during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay.
In a photo taken on June 11, 2021, protesters march during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay.PHOTO: AFP / ANONYMOUS SOURCE

MANDALAY (REUTERS) - Small groups of students protested against Myanmar's military junta on Saturday (July 31) in Mandalay and a human rights group accused the armed forces of crimes against humanity ahead of the six-month anniversary of the army's takeover.

Bands of university students rode motorbikes around Mandalay waving red and green flags, saying they rejected any possibility of talks with the military to negotiate a return to civilian rule.

"There's no negotiating in a blood feud," read one sign.

Myanmar's army seized power on Feb 1 from the civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after her ruling party won elections that the military argued were tainted by fraud.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday said the armed forces' violent suppression of protests against the coup and arrests of opponents included torture, murder and other acts that violate international humanitarian conventions.

"These attacks on the population amount to crimes against humanity for which those responsible should be brought to account," the group's Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.

The spokesman for the military authorities Zaw Min Tun could not be reached on Saturday to respond to Human Rights Watch allegations because his mobile phone was turned off.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group says at least 6,990 people have been arrested since the coup. The group says the armed forces have killed 939 people, a number the military says is exaggerated.

The army has branded its opponents terrorists and says its takeover was in line with the constitution.

The military took power in February after alleging fraud in the November 2020 election, which Ms Suu Kyi's party swept. The former electoral commission had dismissed the military's accusations.