Members of a group supporting Myanmar’s military junta have attacked people protesting against the army’s seizure of power that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Several people were injured in the attacks in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, amid a standoff between the military and a protest movement that has been staging large-scale demonstrations daily to have Ms Suu Kyi’s government restored to power.
Fellow members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations are urging Myanmar’s military to make concessions to help ease tensions.
The 10-country grouping views dialogue with the generals as a more effective method of achieving compromises than more confrontational methods, such as the sanctions often advocated by Western nations.
Photos and videos on social media showed the attacks and injured people in central Yangon as police stood by without intervening. The attackers fired slingshots and carried iron rods, knives and other sharp implements.
A widely circulated video showed one man stabbed in front of an office building near a major junction on the road to Sule Pagoda, a major venue for anti-coup protests.
According to accounts and photos posted on social media, the situation began with a march of hundreds of people in support of the coup.
They carried banners in English with the slogans “We Stand With Our Defence Services” and “We Stand With State Administration Council”, which is the official name of the new junta.
English has been widely used for signs and posters and online memes by the anti-coup demonstrators in an effort to win international support.
Reports said the pro-military marchers were jeered by bystanders near the Central Railway station and responded by firing slingshots, throwing stones and then chasing them. Video shows pro- and anti-coup crowds at the location.
Supporters of the military have gathered in the streets before, especially in the days immediately before and after the coup on February 1, but had not used violence so openly.
Critics of the military claim it has paid people to engage in violence, including during a failed anti-military uprising in 1988 and an ambush of Ms Suu Kyi’s motorcade in a remote rural area in 2003, when she was seeking to rally supporters against the military regime then in power.
Social media giant Facebook announced on Thursday that it was banning all accounts linked to Myanmar’s military as well as ads from military-controlled companies after the army’s seizure of power on February 1.
It said in a statement that it was treating the post-coup situation as an “emergency”, explaining that the ban was precipitated by events since the coup, including “deadly violence”.
Facebook has already banned several military-linked accounts since the coup, including army-controlled Myawaddy TV and state television broadcaster MRTV.
The bans also apply to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
The junta has tried but failed to block Facebook and other social media platforms, and for more than a week it has turned off access to the internet nightly from 1am.
The military says it took power because last November’s election was marked by widespread voting irregularities, a claim that was refuted by the state election commission, whose members have since been replaced by the ruling junta.
The junta says it will rule for a year under a state of emergency and then hold fresh elections.