Junta leader says protest campaign is destroying the country
Anti-coup demonstrators in Myanmar fought back with hunting rifles and firebombs against a crackdown by security forces in a town in the northwest but at least 11 of the protesters were killed, domestic media reported on Thursday.
Initially, six truckloads of troops were deployed to quell the protesters in the town of Taze, Myanmar Now, and Irrawaddy news outlets said. When the protesters fought back with guns, knives, and firebombs, five more truckloads of troop reinforcements were brought in.
Fighting continued into Thursday morning and at least 11 protesters were killed and about 20 wounded, the media said. There was no word of any casualties among the soldiers.
That would take the toll of civilians killed by security forces to over 600 since the junta seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). It had a toll of 598 dead as of Wednesday evening.
Taze is near the town of Kale, where at least 11 people were killed in a similar clash on Wednesday, according to news media and witnesses. Security forces fired live rounds, grenades, and machine guns on protesters who were demanding the restoration of Suu Kyi's government, AAPP said.
A spokesman for the junta could not be reached for comment.
The government on Thursday arrested Paing Takhon, a model and actor who had spoken out against the coup, his sister told Reuters. In Yangon, the country's biggest city, activists placed shoes filled with flowers to commemorate dead protesters.
AAPP has said 2,847 people were currently being held in detention.
Besides, arrest warrants have been issued for hundreds of people, with the junta this week going after scores of influencers, entertainers, artists, and musicians.
Paing Takhon, 24, a model and actor well-known in Myanmar and Thailand, was one of the latest celebrities to be detained. He had condemned the military's takeover and pledged support for Suu Kyi.
His sister, Thi Thi Lwin, told Reuters that the military detained her brother at 4.30 am, local time, at their parents' home in Yangon, where he had been staying for several days while unwell, suffering from malaria and a heart condition.
The security forces came with eight military trucks and about 50 soldiers and it was unclear where he had been taken, she said.
The country’s most famous comedian, Zarganar, was arrested on Tuesday, media reported.
'Locked out of embassy'
Overseas, diplomatic tussles emerged again on Wednesday.
Myanmar's ambassador to London Kyaw Zwar Minn said he was locked out of the embassy, with sources saying his deputy had shut him out and taken charge on behalf of the military.
Kyaw Zwar Minn has broken ranks with the ruling junta in recent weeks, calling for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"It's a kind of coup, in the middle of London... you can see that they occupy my building," he told Reuters.
There have also been similar counterclaims in embassies in other global centres and at the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta's leader, said in a statement on Wednesday that the civil disobedience movement, or CDM, had halted the working of hospitals, schools, roads, offices, and factories.
"CDM is an activity to destroy the country," he said.
Fitch Solutions said in a report that Western sanctions targeting the military were unlikely to succeed in restoring democracy, but said the army was losing control.
It predicted a violent revolution pitting the military against an armed opposition comprised of members of the anti-coup movement and ethnic militias.
"The escalating violence on civilians and ethnic militias show that the Tatmadaw (military) is increasingly losing control of the country," it said.
The vast majority of people back Suu Kyi's ousted government, it added.
Suu Kyi and leading figures in her National League for Democracy party, which won an election in November that was annulled by the coup, are currently in detention facing various charges.
The United Nations' special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, hopes to visit the country in the next few days, a UN spokesman said in New York.