Myanmar protesters defy crackdown, five killed; junta hunts critics

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Myanmar security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protests on Saturday killing at least five people, a protester and media said, as the military stepped up its bid to stifle dissent with arrest warrants for a further 20 high-profile critics.

Despite the killing of more than 550 people by the security forces since the February 1 coup, protesters are coming out every day, often in small groups in small towns, to voice opposition to the overthrow of an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the return of military rule.

Security forces in the central town of Monywa, which has seen daily protests for weeks, fired on a crowd killing at least four people and wounding several, two media organisations said.

“They started firing non-stop with both stun grenades and live rounds,” the protester in Monywa, who declined to be identified, told Reuters via a messaging app.

“People backed off and quickly put up … barriers but a bullet hit a person in front of me, in the head. He died on the spot.”

One man was shot and killed in the southern town of Thaton, the Bago Weekly Journal online news portal and residents reported. Police also opened fire in the central town of Bago, wounding one man.

Protests were also held in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, and the northern town of Hpakant, media reported.

Police and a spokesperson for the junta did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

The military has said those killed instigated 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.