Myanmar security forces clashed with villagers armed with catapults and crossbows while searching for weapons in the Ayeyarwady River Delta area on Saturday, and local media reported that about 20 people had been killed.
State television news reports that three “terrorists” have been killed and two arrested in the village of Hlayswe as security forces go to arrest a man accused of plotting against the state.
The military has struggled to gain control since ousting elected leader Aug San Suu Kyi after a decade of democratic reform reopened the once-isolated state.
A meeting between junta leader Min Aung Hlaying and envoys from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sparked anger in parts of Myanmar on Saturday, and the ASEAN flag was lit in the second city of Mandalay.
The clashes erupted before dawn on Saturday in Hlayswe, about 150km (100 miles) northwest of the capital Yangon, when soldiers said they had come looking for weapons, at least four local media and one resident said.
“People in the village only have crossbows and there are a lot of casualties from the people,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
Khit Thit Media and Delta News reported that 20 civilians were killed and more injured. They said villagers tried to retaliate with catapults after soldiers attacked residents in search of weapons, they said.
State television MRTV said security forces were attacked with pistols and darts for compressed air. The bodies of three attackers were found after the shooting, the statement said.
If confirmed, the tax from the local media will be the highest in a day of nearly two months. About 845 people had previously been killed by the army and police since the February 1st coup, according to a group of activists. The junta disputes this figure.
This was one of the worst acts of violence since the coup in the Ayeyarwadi region, an important rice-growing area inhabited by large populations of both the Bamar-majority ethnic group, which makes up much of the army, and the Karen minority. .
After the coup, conflicts erupted in the borderlands, where about two dozen ethnic armies have been rioting for decades. The junta is also facing daily protests and paralyzing strikes.
The People’s Defense Forces of the Schwegu junta said they attacked a police station in northern Schwegu late Friday along with Kachin’s Independence Army (KIA).
Reuters was unable to contact KIA for comment.
In eastern Myanmar, the MBPDF (Mobye People’s Defense Force) said it clashed with the army on Friday and four “terrorist soldiers” were killed.
Despite the turmoil, Myanmar’s army has shown no signs of complying with calls from its opponents to relinquish power. This week, the junta received its first high-ranking foreign visitors – the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the two ASEAN envoys.
An underground opposition government formed by opponents of the junta said after the envoys’ visit on Friday that it had lost faith in ASEAN’s attempts to end the crisis – the main international effort to resolve it.
Protesters in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, burned an ASEAN flag on Saturday, accusing the group of giving legitimacy to the junta. One poster says, “The ASEAN way simply means standing useless.”
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