YANGON: Five people were killed and at least 15 arrested after Myanmar security forces in a car rammed into an anti-coup protest on Sunday morning in Yangon, local news portal Myanmar Now reported.
Witnesses on the scene told Reuters dozens had been injured. Photos and videos on social media show a vehicle that crashed through the protesters and bodies lying on the road.
Another protest was held in Yangon in the afternoon despite the morning violence. Anti-military protests are continuing despite the killing of more than 1,300 people since the Feb. 1 coup. The scattered protests are often small groups voicing opposition to the overthrow of an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the return of military rule.
The opposition’s shadow government said it was heartbroken to see peaceful protesters crashed and shot to death. “We will strongly respond to the terrorist military who brutally, inhumanly killed the unarmed peaceful protesters,” the National Unity Government’s defence ministry said in a statement on social media after Sunday’s attack.
In the incident, a “flash mob” protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was rammed minutes after it started, witnesses said. “I got hit and fell down in front of a truck. A soldier beat me with his rifle but I defended and pushed him back. Then he immediately shot at me as I ran away in a zig-zag pattern. Fortunately, I escaped,” a protester who asked not to be identified for security reasons told Reuters by phone.
A car occupied by soldiers hit the crowd from the back, two witnesses said, and followed the scattered protesters arresting and beating them. Some were seriously injured with head wounds and unconscious, according to the witnesses. A spokesman for the ruling junta did not answer calls seeking comment on Sunday.
The military has said that protesters who have been killed instigated the violence. It says it staged the coup because a November election won by Suu Kyi’s party was rigged. The election commission has dismissed the assertion.
Wars with ethnic minority insurgents in remote frontier regions in the north and east have intensified significantly since the coup, displacing tens of thousands of civilians, according to United Nations estimates.
Suu Kyi, 76, faces a dozen cases against her including incitement and violations of COVID-19 protocols. She has rejected all the charges to date.