At least 82 people were killed in one day in an attack by Myanmar’s security forces against democracy protesters, according to reports on Saturday from independent local media and an organization that keeps track of fatalities since the February coup.
Friday’s death toll in Bago was the largest total day sum for a single city since March 14, when more than 100 people were killed in Yangon, the country’s largest city. Bago is located about 100 kilometers northeast of Yangon. The Associated Press cannot independently verify the number of deaths.
The number of deaths 82 was a preliminary compilation by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which issues daily bills of fatalities and arrests from the aggregation in the aftermath of the February 1 coup that fired the elected government in Aung San Suu Kyi.
Their speeches are generally accepted as very credible because cases are not added until they have been confirmed, with the details published on their website.
In their Saturday report, the group said it expected the death toll in Bago to increase as more cases were verified.
The online news site Myanmar Now also reported that 82 people had been killed, citing an unnamed source involved in charity rescue efforts. Myanmar Now and other local media said the bodies had been collected by the military and dumped due to a Buddhist pagoda.
At least 701 protesters and spectators have been killed by security forces since the army took over, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The attack on Bago was the third in the past week with massive use of force to try to crush the persistent opposition to the ruling junta.
Attacks were launched on Wednesday on hardcore opponents of the military government who had set up strongholds in the northern cities of Kalay and Taze. At least 11 people were reported killed in both places – possibly including some spectators.
Security forces were accused of using heavy weapons in their attacks, including rocket-propelled grenades and mortar, although such allegations could not be confirmed independently by the Associated Press. Photos posted on social media from Bago appeared to show fragments of mortar.
Most protests in cities and towns around the country are carried out by non-violent protesters who consider themselves part of a civil disobedience movement.
But as police and the military escalated the use of lethal force, a hardcore faction of protesters armed themselves with homemade weapons like firebombs in the name of self-defense. In Kalay, activists called themselves a “civilian army” and some equipped themselves with rudimentary hunting rifles that are traditional in the remote area.
A report from Myanmar Now said residents of Tamu, a town in the same region as Kalay, used shotguns on Saturday to ambush a military convoy, claiming they killed three soldiers.
The junta has taken other measures to counter resistance. It recently published a desired list of 140 people active in the arts and journalism responsible for disseminating information that undermines the country’s stability and the rule of law. The penalty for the crime is up to three years in prison. Arrests of those on the list have been widely published in state media.
The state television channel MRTV reported on Friday night that a military court sentenced 19 people to death – 17 in absentia – for killing an army officer in Yangon on March 27. The attack took place in an area of the city that is under war. law, and court action appeared to be the first time a death sentence has been imposed under the junta’s rule.
The UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, arrived in the Thai capital Bangkok on Friday on a regional mission to resolve the Myanmar crisis. She intends to release several Southeast Asian governments for her ideas but has been denied permission to visit Myanmar.