At least 20 people were killed by Myanmar’s security forces in the Ayeyarwady river delta region on Saturday after villagers armed with catapults and crossbows fought back against troops searching for weapons, local media and residents said.
That would make it the heaviest civilian death toll in nearly two months. Some 845 people had previously been killed by the army and police since the February 1 coup, according to an activist group. The junta has disputed that figure.
Reuters was unable to reach a junta spokesman on Saturday for comment on the violence at Hlayswe village in Kyonpyaw township in the Ayeyarwady Region. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Protesters take positions behind a barricade as police gather in Yangon in March.Credit:AP
The army has struggled to impose control since it overthrew elected leader Aug San Suu Kyi after a decade of democratic reforms had opened up the once isolated Southeast Asian state.
Clashes broke out before dawn on Saturday at Hlayswe, about 150 km northwest of the main city of Yangon, when soldiers said they had come to search for weapons, at least four local media outlets and a resident said.
“The people in the village only have crossbows and there are a lot of casualties on the people’s side,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
It was some of the worst violence since the coup in the Ayeyarwady region, an important rice growing area that has large populations of both the Bamar majority ethnic group, from which much of the army is drawn, and the Karen minority.
Saturday’s civilian death toll appeared to be the highest since more than 80 people were reported killed in the town of Bago in early April.
Since the coup, conflicts have flared in the borderlands where some two dozen ethnic armies have been waging insurgencies for decades. The junta has also been faced by daily protests and paralyzing strikes.
The anti-junta Shwegu People’s Defence Force said it had attacked a police station in northern Shwegu late on Friday together with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Reuters was unable to reach the KIA for comment.
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