(C) Reuters. An anti-coup demonstrator sprays a fire extinguisher as he runs away from a barricade during a protests in Yangon
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s military government accused deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi of accepting illegal payments as eight people were killed on Thursday when security forces opened fire on protests against the coup, witnesses and local media 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, domestic media said. Photographs posted on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) showed a man lying 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 Feb. 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.”
A military spokesman declined to comment on the violence.
The junta 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.
The spokesman, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that Suu Kyi had accepted illegal payments worth $600,000 as well as gold while in government.
The information had been verified and many people were being questioned, he added.
He said President Win Myint and several cabinet ministers had also engaged in corruption and that he had pressured the country’s election commission not to act on the military’s reports of irregularities.
U.N. FAILS TO CALL THE TAKEOVER A COUP
The army has justified the takeover 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. The junta has previously promised a new election within a year, but has not set a date.
The U.N. 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.
U.N. 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.
Myanmar junta accuses Suu Kyi of taking bribes as eight killed in anti-coup protests