YANGON: Eight protesters were killed in Myanmar on Thursday (Mar 11) when security forces opened fire on protests against the Feb 1 coup, witnesses and local media said.
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, local media said.
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 Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government.
Amnesty International accused the army of using lethal force against protesters and said many killings documented amounted to extrajudicial executions.
"These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions," said Joanne Mariner, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.
"These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open."
Social media posts showed protesters marching in the town of Tamu in Chin State on Thursday chanting: "Will we revolt or will we serve them? We will revolt."
A Reuters witness said there was also a small rally in the Sanchaung area of Yangon, a district where security forces this week fired guns and used stun grenades as they checked houses to hunt down protesters.
Overnight people defied a curfew to hold several more candlelit vigils in parts of Yangon and also in Myingyan, southwest of the second city of Mandalay.
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.
A military spokesman declined to comment on the violence.
The spokesman, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, told a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw, that Aung San Suu Kyi had accepted illegal payments worth US$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.
US SANCTIONS GENERAL'S CHILDREN
State media said the junta had removed Arakan Army (AA) insurgents from its list of terrorist groups because the faction has stopped attacks and in order to help establish peace across the country.
The move comes at a time the army is struggling to contain daily protests against the coup.
The AA is fighting for greater autonomy in the western Rakhine state and had become one of the most formidable forces in challenging an army that has been fighting various ethnic wars for seven decades.
In a bid to increase pressure on the military as it continues its crackdown, the US Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two children of military leader Min Aung Hlaing and six companies they control.
In New York, the United Nations Security Council condemned violence against peaceful protesters and called for the military to "exercise utmost restraint".
The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned violence against protesters and urged the army to show restraint.
But language that would have condemned the coup and threatened possible further action was removed from the British-drafted text, due to opposition by China, Russia, India 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 that the results of a November election are respected.
The army has justified the coup by saying that the election, won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, was marred by fraud - an assertion rejected by the electoral commission. The junta has promised a new election within a year, but has not set a date.
BG Zaw Min Tun said Myanmar's military respects its neighbours and the international community but will forge ahead with objectives it set out when it took power last month.
"We will hold an election and we will hand over to the wining party," BG Zaw Min Tun told a news conference. "We respect neighbouring countries and the international community but we will continue with our five objectives."
The military also respects and values media freedom and has only arrested journalists who were inciting unrest, he said.