Myanmar soldiers wounded at least three people after ramming a car into a peaceful anti-coup rally in Yangon, eyewitnesses said Sunday.
The country has been in turmoil since February when the military seized power, triggering nationwide demonstrations which the junta sought to quell with violent crackdowns and mass arrests.
More than 10 months of military rule has seen some 1,300 killed rallying against the army but small, highly mobile protests still crop up.
The rally in Yangon was violently dispersed Sunday morning when a large car ploughed into it, according to a journalist there.
“They increased the speed when they got closer to the protesters — it was like they drove into them,” he said, declining to provide his name for security reasons.
He said a handful of people, some carrying banners in support of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, were hit and splayed on the ground as others fled the scene.
“Then the soldiers jumped out of the car and started shooting,” he said.
One protester appeared to have been seriously wounded, said another person at the scene, and was taken with two others — one of them a Myanmar journalist — away in an ambulance.
Soldiers then started beating three people knocked over by the vehicle, a 26-year-old resident alleged.
“The soldiers then pointed their guns at us and ordered all the bystanders to leave, so we had to leave,” the resident added.
State-run MRTV news reported that security forces “took action” on the protesters, though it made no mention of soldiers using a vehicle to collide with them.
It confirmed three people were injured — with one sustaining serious wounds — and 11 were arrested for “having a protest without asking for permission”.
The junta has long justified its power takeover by alleging fraud in last year’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party swept in an apparent landslide, and have vowed to hold fresh polls in 2023.
Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians have been reported killed in northwest Myanmar’s Sagaing region since the military seized power.
According to an investigation by RFA’s Myanmar Service, at least 414 civilians have died since the Feb. 1 coup, including 309 people who were killed at the hands of security forces.
The anti-junta Peoples’ Defense Force (PDF) has killed 105 civilians, many of whom it claims were local administrators acting as informants to the military.
The single most deadly crackdown in the region took place in Kalay city’s Tarhan ward, near the border with Chin state, when soldiers and armed police stormed anti-junta protesters barricaded inside Fort Tarhan on March 28 and April 7. At least 18 people died and many others were injured or arrested in the raids.
A member of the Mingin township PDF, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, told RFA that the incidents convinced him that he needed to do more than protest but to fight back against the junta with weapons.
According to data compiled by RFA based on statements by the shadow National Unity Government, there were 597 armed clashes in Sagaing region in the five months from June to November and a total of 274 civilians and 1,137 junta soldiers were killed over the same period.
The number of civilians killed by both sides in Sagaing in the past 10 months totaled at least 414, based on NUG monthly statements and reports from local media.
According to the Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, more than 75,250 people have been displaced by clashes in Sagaing region in the nine months from the coup until the end of October. – with reports from Agence France Presse and Radio Free Asia