Protests ahead of 6-month anniversary of Myanmar coup

Human Rights Watch says military must be held to account for ‘crimes against humanity’

Protesters raise three-finger salutes during a rally staged by Myanmar nationals residing in Japan, outside the National Stadium, the main venue of the Tokyo Olympic Games, on July 26. (Reuters Photo)

Small groups of students protested against Myanmar’s military junta on Saturday in Mandalay and a human rights group accused the armed forces of crimes against humanity ahead of the six-month anniversary of the army’s takeover.

Bands of university students rode motorbikes around Mandalay waving red and green flags, saying they rejected any possibility of talks with the military to negotiate a return to civilian rule.

“There’s no negotiating in a blood feud,” read one sign.

The army, known as the Tatmadaw, seized power on Feb 1 from the civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after her ruling party won elections that the military argued were tainted by fraud.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday that the armed forces’ violent suppression of protests against the coup and arrests of opponents included torture, murder and other acts that violate international humanitarian conventions.

“These attacks on the population amount to crimes against humanity for which those responsible should be brought to account,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement.

The spokesman for the military authorities, Zaw Min Tun, could not be reached on Saturday to respond to the HRW allegations because his mobile phone was turned off.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group says at least 6,990 people have been arrested since the coup. The group says the armed forces have killed 939 people, a number the military says is exaggerated.

The army has branded its opponents terrorists and says its takeover was in line with the constitution.

The military took power in February after alleging fraud in the November 2020 election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party secured an even bigger majority than it had in 2015.

The former electoral commission dismissed the military’s accusations but the junta sacked its members and appointed new ones. On July 9 the commission issued a report saying it had found 11 million instances of fraud, with violations in every constituency in the country.