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Witnesses to Bago killings describe relentless military attack on Myanmar civilians

By the wee hours of the next morning, at least 82 people were dead, according to advocacy group AAPP.

The prospective student, who had planned to study computer science at university this year, witnessed the brutal crackdown by junta-controlled security forces. He asked CNN to hide his identity while hiding from the military.

He says he was in control of Bunker 5, a roadblock of demonstrators made of sandbags meant to stop bullets.

In reality, he offered little protection from the heavy weapons he and others say the security forces used against civilians that day.

“They were attacking Bunker 1, the main bunker, with heavy weapons and there were about 30 volunteers who were killed on the spot,” he said.

“When we were on the way home, they shot us from the monastery where they were stationed. Since they were shooting at us all the time, I think at least 40 of us were killed by that time.

A doctor, who requested anonymity for his own safety, said he was in another part of town.

“My house is quite a distance from the barricade, so I didn’t hear the gunshots, but when they started using the heavy weapons, my whole family was awakened.”

He says he saw a protester enter a nearby house for security reasons, but security forces followed him, dragging the owner and his son outside and hitting them with a steel bar. He says the man and son were taken away by the army and have not been heard from since.

The doctor says he tried to film the events with his phone, but the military saw him and started shooting at his house. “They cracked down on houses that supported the defense team, some (residents) gave them food (protesters) and some gave them medical treatment for gunshot wounds,” the doctor said.

The doctor says other protesters in town called him for medical help, but he said he could only give advice over the phone as the military were on his street all day.

Witnesses to Bago killings describe relentless military attack on Myanmar civilians

An activist, again unidentified for her own safety, told CNN that a bystander was shot but her family were unable to recover the body because the shooting was too intense. She says they brought the body home once it calmed down and held a secret funeral that night.

The military junta, which seized power on February 1, deposing the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, tells a very different story.

The army-controlled newspaper, the Global New Light of Myanmar, reported a day later, “Security forces were attacked by groups of rioters as they removed road barriers solidified by rioters in the areas. Bago streets yesterday. About 30, 50 and 80 rioters used homemade weapons, fire bottles, arrows, handmade shields and grenades to attack the security forces. “

The 18-year-old protester describes a much more rudimentary, mostly defensive, arsenal.

“We have gas masks, helmets, air pistols, that’s all we have,” he says.

The defense group AAPP claims that the security forces used weapons more suited to a battlefield: “assault rifles, heavy weapons like RPGs and hand grenades”.

Faced with weapons of war, the 18-year-old protester says some protesters have traveled to ethnic areas for military defense training and plan to train others upon their return.

A second doctor, also hiding his identity for his safety, says he tried to access the wounded in Bago but was blocked by the military.

“On the main road, barricades were erected every two blocks and forces broke these barriers one after another. We were on the other side and we could see the injured, we could see people falling to the ground, but we couldn’t. do not reach them. ”

He said he saw a spectator hit in the head with a bullet and fall to the ground. He estimated he was 18 or 19.

The condemnation of the bloody crackdown by security forces in Bago has been scathing and widespread.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement: “The military appears determined to step up its ruthless policy of violence against the people of Myanmar, using military-grade weapons and blind. ”

The US Embassy in Myanmar said it mourns “the senseless loss of life in Bago and in the country where regime forces have reportedly used weapons of war against civilians.”

Witnesses to Bago killings describe relentless military attack on Myanmar civilians

At least 726 people, including children, have died since the military coup, according to the AAPP, although they say the actual death toll is likely much higher. Since the military takeover, junta security forces made up of police, soldiers and elite counterinsurgency troops have launched a systematic crackdown on civilians and protesters, detaining more than 3,000 people, often during night raids, and forcing militants into hiding.

Responding to criticism and calling for a much lower death toll, junta spokesman Brigadier Zaw Min Tun told army-controlled MRTV last week: “If we really shoot protesters in Using automatic rifles, the 500 you are talking about could be killed in a matter of hours. “

It is not the first time that security forces have fired on civilians in Bago, but protesters say it is the bloodiest day they have suffered since the coup.

Some attribute the high death toll to a suspected military informant, who they say infiltrated the ranks of the Defense team. “A guy betrayed us and gave all of our information, including photos to the military,” said the 18-year-old protester.

“He gave them information about our weapons, so they didn’t approach us, they just shot us with heavy weapons and rifles.” He and others we spoke to said the alleged informant’s father would be in the military.

Witnesses to Bago killings describe relentless military attack on Myanmar civilians

CNN cannot independently verify this claim, but the belief that they have been betrayed has shaken confidence within the group.

Protesters are now scattered and hidden, afraid to answer their phones at numbers they don’t recognize.

The soldiers went from house to house in some neighborhoods that day, arresting people at their homes, according to several sources.

They say the families received a phone call the next day, urging them to come and collect the bodies of those killed in the violence, at a price. Relatives are asked to pay the equivalent of $ 85 for the privilege of buying their loved one and bidding them a dignified farewell. That price has now risen to $ 110, says an activist.

CNN’s calls for the military to comment on the apparent charges for the recovery of the bodies have gone unanswered.


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