Myanmar’s military spokesman Zaw Min Tun on Tuesday expressed regret over the death of a large number of demonstrators in clashes with the security forces since the military junta seized power in the Asian country in February.
“Outbreaks of violence on cities’ streets [in February – March] claimed the lives of 164 people. They did not participate in peaceful demonstrations, but in riots, during which they committed arson and acts of vandalism and violence. However we regret their death, because they are not only participants in the riots, but also our fellow citizens,” Zaw Min Tun said during a press briefing broadcast on Myanmar’s state-run MRTV channel.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a civil rights group in Myanmar, previously said that a total of 260 people were killed in Myanmar in violent crackdowns on demonstrators since February 5, when mass demonstrations began in the country.
Zaw Min Tun noted that the military “was not going to put up with chaos and violence” and would not allow the country to “plunge into anarchy.”
On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency. The military also arrested State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint over alleged electoral fraud, and later, on charges of violating COVID-19 restrictions.
The coup triggered mass protests that continue for the sixth week in Myanmar. Over 70 percent of government employees have now joined the civil disobedience movement.
When asked about the mass civil disobedience movement, the military official said the strike by civil servants was not a crime, but a violation of discipline, and therefore “disciplinary investigations and disciplinary action” would be taken in relation to those, who had joined the movement.
Tensions between the protesters and the police appear to be rising as the latter turn to more brutal tactics to suppress the demonstrations. Aside from tear gas and water cannons, the police began using combat weapons in late February.