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Myanmar Crisis

Myanmar military blames protesters for arson and violence

Junta says 164 demonstrators killed, calls strikers 'undutiful and unethical'

Myanmar military junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun on March 23 blamed protesters for violence and arson and said nine members of the security forces had been killed.   © Reuters

Myanmar's military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said 164 protesters had been killed in the violence and expressed sadness at the deaths.

"They are also our citizens," he told a news conference in the capital Naypyitaw on Tuesday, adding that the military would use the least force possible to quell violence.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group says at least 261 people have been killed in the brutal crackdown by security forces that has left the Southeast Asian nation in turmoil.

The junta has tried to justify the coup by saying a Nov. 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was fraudulent -- an accusation the electoral commission rejected. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date and have declared a state of emergency.

Zaw Min Tun blamed protesters for violence and arson and said nine members of the security forces had been killed.

"Can we call these peaceful protesters?" he said, while showing a video of factories on fire. "Which country or organization would regard this violence as peaceful?"

He said strikes and hospitals not fully operating had caused deaths, including from COVID-19, calling them "undutiful and unethical."

The spokesman also accused media of "fake news" and fanning unrest and said reporters could be prosecuted if they were in contact with the Committee Representing Union Parliament (CRPH), as the remnants of Suu Kyi's government is known locally. The military has declared the CRPH an illegal organization and said membership is punishable by death.

In the over three hour news conference, the spokesman also said the military respected the media and although reporting protests was allowed, leading them was a crime.

Zaw Min Tun gave granular details or how the NLD had created hundreds or even thousands of extra ballots in numerous townships by inventing voters, including in Suu Kyi's own constituency. Videos of people saying they were paid by NLD representatives were shown at the news conference.

Also shown was video testimony of former Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein saying he visited Suu Kyi multiple times and gave her money "whenever needed".

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to bring democratic civilian rule to Myanmar, has been in detention since the coup. Her lawyer says charges against her are trumped up.

The junta said it is cooperating with five neighboring countries - Bangladesh, China, India, Laos and Thailand - and values and respects their words, plus any countries that respect the stability of Myanmar.

(Reuters)

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