Myanmar’s military government accused deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday of accepting illegal payments, while eight people were killed when security forces opened fire on protests against the coup, witnesses said.
Rights group Amnesty International accused the military of adopting battle tactics against demonstrators.
Six people were killed in the central town of Myaing when forces fired on a protest, a man who took part in the demonstration and helped carry bodies to hospital told Reuters by telephone. A health worker there confirmed all six deaths.
“We protested peacefully,” the 31-year-old man said. “I couldn’t believe they did it.”
One person was killed in the North Dagon district of the biggest city of Yangon, witnesses said. Photographs posted on Facebook showed a man prone on the street, bleeding from a head wound. One death was reported in Mandalay.
Before Thursday’s deaths, an advocacy group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, had said more than 60 protesters were killed and about 2 000 people detained by security forces since the February 1 coup against Suu Kyi’s elected government.
Amnesty International accused the army of using lethal force against protesters and said many killings it had documented amounted to extra-judicial executions.
“These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions,” said Joanne Mariner, the group’s director of crisis response.
“These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open.”
Myanmar protests continue amid calls for diplomatic intervention:
Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference the security forces were disciplined and used force only when necessary. The unrest was not a situation that should be of concern to the international community and the West was making assumptions that were incorrect, he added.
The military has previously said it is acting with utmost restraint in handling what it describes as demonstrations by “riotous protesters” whom it accuses of attacking police and harming national security and stability.
Zaw Min Tun also said that Suu Kyi had accepted illegal payments worth $600 000 as well as gold while in government, according to a complaint by Phyo Mien Thein, a former chief minister of Yangon.
“He strongly said that,” the spokesman said. “We have verified those facts several times. Now the anti-corruption committee is continuing the investigation.”
He said President Win Myint and several cabinet ministers had also engaged in corruption and that the president had pressured the election commission not to act on the military’s reports of irregularities.
UN fails to call the takeover a coup
The army has justified taking power by saying that a November election, overwhelmingly won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, was marred by fraud – an assertion rejected by the electoral commission.
Zaw Min Tun also reiterated that the military would only be in charge for a certain period before holding an election. “We are on the road to authentic democracy,” he said.
The junta has previously promised a new election within a year, but has not set a date.
The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned violence against protesters and urged the army to show restraint.
But language that would have denounced the military takeover as a coup or threatened possible further action was removed from the British-drafted text, due to opposition by China, India, Russia and Vietnam.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the Security Council statement would push the military to realise it “is absolutely essential” that all prisoners are released and the results of the November election are respected.
In Myanmar, state media said the junta had removed Arakan Army (AA) insurgents from its list of terrorist groups because the faction had stopped attacks in order to help establish peace across the country.
The move comes as the army struggles to restrain daily protests against the coup.
The AA, which is fighting for greater autonomy in the western state of Rakhine, had become one of the most formidable forces in challenging an army that has been fighting various ethnic wars for seven decades.