Supporters of Myanmar’s junta attacked protesters demanding the end to the military government that took power in a coup, using slingshots, iron rods and knives Thursday to injure several of the demonstrators.
The violence complicates an already intractable standoff between the military and a protest movement that has been staging large rallies daily to demand that Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government be restored to power. She and other politicians were ousted and arrested on Feb. 1 in a takeover that shocked the international community and reversed years of slow progress toward democracy.
Facebook, meanwhile, announced that it would ban all accounts linked to the country’s military as well as ads from military-controlled companies — a reflection of international outrage over the takeover.
On Thursday, tensions escalated on the streets between anti-coup protesters and supporters of the military. Photos and videos posted on social media showed groups attacking people in downtown Yangon as police stood by without intervening.
The number of injured people and their condition was not immediately clear.
According to accounts and photos posted on social media, hundreds of people marched Thursday in support of the coup. They carried banners in English with the slogans “We Stand With Our Defense Services” and “We Stand With State Administration Council,” which is the official name of the new junta.
When the marchers were jeered by bystanders near the city’s Central Railway station, they responded by firing slingshots, throwing stones and then chasing down the bystanders. One band that broke away stabbed and kicked a man they had chased. Video shows there had been both pro- and anti-coup crowds near the station Thursday.
Supporters of the military have gathered in the streets before, especially in the days immediately before and after the coup, but had not used violence so openly.
Critics of the military charge its pays people to engage in violence, allegations that are hard to verify. They have been raised during earlier spells of unrest, including a failed anti-military uprising in 1988 and an ambush of Suu Kyi’s motorcade in a remote rural area in 2003, when she was seeking to rally her supporters against the military regime then in power. SOVEREIGNPH