Military regime calls anti-coup protesters ‘insurgents holding weapons’ and vows to end ‘anarchy’
Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday defended its seven-week crackdown that has left more than 260 democracy protesters dead, insisting it would not tolerate “anarchy”.
The junta has unleashed deadly violence as it struggles to quell nationwide protests against the February 1 ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw, junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun put the death toll lower at 164.
“I am sad because these violent terrorist people who died are our nationals,” he said.
The streets of towns and cities across the country have seen chaotic scenes for weeks as security forces clash with protesters demanding the restoration of democracy and the release of Ms. Suu Kyi.
The authorities have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse protests, prompting a senior UN rights expert to warn they may be committing “crimes against humanity”.
But despite widespread international condemnation, the junta spokesman defended the response, saying that the security forces were dealing with “insurgents holding weapons” and five police and four soldiers had been killed.
“We have to crack down on the anarchy. Which countries in the world accept anarchy?” he said.
Despite the bloodshed, protesters took to the streets again on Tuesday, staging demonstrations in Yangon.
As well as breaking up protests, the military has sought to stem the flow of news about the crackdown, banning several local media outlets and arresting dozens of journalists.
Mobile data networks remains suspended.
Ms. Suu Kyi, not seen in public since being detained on February 1, is facing several criminal charges as well as allegations of accepting illegal payments of gold and cash.
Sean Turnell, an Australian adviser to the 75-year-old Nobel laureate, is being investigated under immigration and state secrets laws, the junta spokesman announced on Tuesday.
International pressure is building on the regime, with the EU on Monday imposing sanctions on junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing and 10 other senior officials. The U.S. — which has already blacklisted the top junta leaders — sanctioned Myanmar’s police chief and an army special operations commander, saying they were responsible for using lethal force against demonstrators.