Myanmar activists call for anti-coup protest as junta marks Armed Forces Day

WION Web Team
Yangon, Myanmar Updated: Mar 26, 2021, 07:39 PM IST

Myanmar anti-coup protests Photograph:(Agencies)

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Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested since the coup, according to a local monitoring group, but the junta earlier this week released more than 600 from Yangon's Insein prison

Myanmar activists have called for major anti-coup protests this weekend as the junta marks Armed Forces Day, after a firebomb attack on deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party headquarters.

Myanmar's security forces have killed more than 300 people in attempts to crush opposition to a February 1 coup, with nearly 90 per cent of victims shot dead and a quarter of them shot in the head, according to data from an advocacy group and local media.

The killings have drawn outrage and prompted some sanctions from Western countries, including the United States. The use of lethal force against civilians had also been condemned by some Southeast Asian neighbours, which tend to be restrained in their criticism.

"Crimes against humanity are committed daily," said the non-profit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) group, which has been recording the deaths as well as nearly 3,000 people arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.

Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested since the coup, according to a local monitoring group, but the junta earlier this week released more than 600 from Yangon's Insein prison.

On Friday a senior official from the jail, notorious for being the holding site of longtime political prisoners, said another 322 people have been freed.

It comes on the eve of Saturday's Armed Forces Day, when the military will put on a show of strength with its annual parade.

Fears have been swirling that the day could become a flashpoint, as security forces continue to crack down on activists, protesters and political allies of Suu Kyi.

Before dawn on Friday, the Yangon offices of her National League for Democracy (NLD) were hit by a Molotov cocktail, which caused a brief fire.

The attack left only minor damage, but the party has been in disarray since the coup, with many of its top leaders including Suu Kyi in detention and some of its MPs in hiding.

Activists issued a call for nationwide protests against the junta on Saturday.

"The time has arrived again to fight the military's oppression," prominent activist Ei Thinzar Maung posted on Facebook.

The protest movement has included widespread strikes and civil disobedience by government workers, which has hamstrung the functioning of the state.

This has infuriated the authorities, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to break up street demonstrations, and arrested people suspected of supporting the civil disobedience campaign.

Security forces once again Friday deployed lethal arms in the southern city of Myeik against protesters wielding shields and homemade rifles, who moved quickly to carry the injured off the streets.

At least three people were killed, including a woman who was in her house, said a resident near the crackdown, who witnessed the melee.

"They shot all the people along the road while they chased to arrest protesters on motorbikes," he told AFP, saying security forces were still indiscriminately shooting in the area.

Friday's killings will push the death toll since the coup to more than 320, according to The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group.

To protect themselves from violence, some activists have come up with creative ways to protest, including staging "human-less" rallies, using objects or dummies in place of people.

In Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, doctors' white coats with black ribbons spray-painted on them were hung at a medical clinic's entrance, in apparent mourning for those killed in the unrest.

US ambassador to Myanmar Thomas Vajda on Friday visited the site where 23-year-old Nyi Nyi Aung Htet was shot down last month and laid a wreath of white roses at the spot where he died.

"May we all remember their courage and dedication to a better future for Myanmar," read its message.

Myanmar has been rocked by almost daily protests since the army overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government and installed the junta. Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign to bring the democratic civilian rule to Myanmar, and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) are being held in detention.