Myanmar military supporters, some armed with knives and clubs, others shooting catapults and throwing stones, attacked opponents of the February 1 coup on Thursday as protests against the new junta continued in the country’s largest city.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power, holding civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership after the military complained of fraud in the November election.
Protests and strikes have been going on daily for about three weeks, and students had planned to come out again in Yangon on Thursday.
But before many coup opponents gathered, about 1,000 military supporters met in the city center.
Some threatened news photographers, media workers and witnesses said, and fighting soon escalated into more serious violence in several parts of the city.
Several people were beaten and beaten by groups of men, some armed with knives, others fired catapults and threw stones, witnesses said. At least two people were stabbed, videos showed.
In an incident, several men, one with a large knife, attacked a man outside a hotel in the city center. Rescue workers helped the bloody man after his attacker moved away, but his condition was not known.
“Today’s events show who the terrorists are. They are afraid of the people’s actions for democracy, activist Thin Zar Shun Lei Yi told Reuters.
“We continue our peaceful protests against the dictatorship.”
As dusk fell, dozens of riot police fired tear gas into a city block to disperse a crowd that had gathered at an administrative office to protest the appearance of a local junta official, according to a witness and live-streamed video.
The violence will exacerbate concerns for a country that is largely paralyzed by the protests and a civil disobedience campaign for strikes against the military.
Earlier, police blocked the gates to Yangon’s main university campus and prevented hundreds of students from coming inside to demonstrate.
Facebook said that because of the risks posed by the “deadly violence” seen since the coup, it had banned Myanmar’s military from using its Facebook and Instagram platforms.
The spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer a phone call for comment.
Military Chief General Aung Hlaing says authorities use minimal force. Still, three protesters and a police officer were killed in the violence.
The United States, Britain and others have called for Suu Kyi’s release and restoration of democracy and have imposed limited sanctions on members of the junta and its business associates.
The British Foreign Office said on Thursday that it would sanction six more military personnel, in addition to 19 previously listed and including Min Aung Hlaing, and that the Department of Commerce would work to ensure that British companies do not handle Myanmar’s military-owned companies.
“Today’s package sends a clear message to the military regime in Myanmar that those responsible for human rights violations will be held accountable and the authorities must return control to a government elected by the people of Myanmar,” Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a statement. statement.
A rights group said that as of Wednesday, 728 people had been arrested, charged or convicted in relation to the democratic protests.
The army said its control was within the constitution after its complaints of fraud in the November 8 election, swept by Suu Kyi’s party as expected, had been ignored. The Election Commission said the vote was fair.
The army has promised a new election after reviewing the voter lists. It has not given a date but it introduced a one-year state of emergency when it took power.
Suu Kyi has been detained at her home in the capital Naypyitaw, but her party says its November victory must be respected.
Veteran Democracy activist Min Ko Naing said the military’s efforts to organize a re-election, which includes a new election commission, must be stopped and all parties involved in it were “ancestors”.
“We must reject the actions of the military government to try to legitimize itself,” he said in a Facebook post.
The issue of a new election is at the heart of a diplomatic effort by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, in order to alleviate the crisis.
Indonesia has taken the lead in the trial and its Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with Myanmar’s military-appointed counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, for talks in Thailand on Wednesday.
But Indonesia’s intervention has aroused suspicion among coup opponents who fear it will give legitimacy to the junta and its attempts to scrap the November vote and arrange a re-election.
Retno did not mention an election in comments to reporters after his talks but emphasized “an inclusive democratic transition process”.
A Reuters report this week quoted sources as saying that Indonesia suggested that ASEAN members send monitors to ensure that generals keep their promise of fair elections, which would mean that the November result was invalid.
Protesters gathered outside the Thai embassy in Yangon on Thursday, shouting “respect our voice”.