Violence in the security forces’ response to the two-month-old pro-democracy protests in Myanmar has become the norm. At least 82 people were killed in a police and military crackdown on protesters in Bago, some 65 kilometers northeast of Yangon – the country’s commercial capital – between Thursday and Friday. A tally that only came to light this Saturday due to internet outages in the country, daily since the military staged a coup d’état last February 1. Burma’s special ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, on Friday urged the international community to “act immediately” to stop the killings.
Details of what happened in Bago have taken more than a day to emerge because of the enormous difficulty in gathering information on what is happening in Myanmar. The Burmese military junta that took control of the country after the uprising – deposing the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has since been detained – ordered telecommunications companies days ago to restrict internet access via cellphones and wifi networks. Witnesses in Bago, home to some 250,000 people, told AFP that the continuing violence in the city has forced many residents to flee to neighboring towns since Thursday.
According to the news agency, which has had access to verified video footage, protesters had to hide behind barricades to escape attacks by the armed forces, while explosions could be heard in the background. The uniformed men used rifle grenades to disperse the protests, while preventing rescue teams from attending to the victims. “They were piling all the lifeless bodies into army trucks and taking them away,” a witness told AFP.
The Association for the Protection of Political Prisoners (AAPP) said today that at least 82 civilians were killed in Bago between Thursday and Friday, bringing to 618 the death toll since the assault took place.
Dozens of the dead are children.
Meanwhile, the military junta reduced the death toll to 248, a spokesman for the generals said Friday at a press conference, calling the victims “violent terrorist people”.
The coup d’état, which the military refuses to define as such and justifies as a response to alleged irregularities, neither documented nor supported by the institutions, in the November elections – in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept – has been strongly opposed by the people. Since February, thousands of people have been taking to the streets daily to demand the return of democracy.
The security forces have been cracking down harder and harder on the demonstrations, which continue to take place all over the country.