Myanmar security forces kill 13 anti-coup protesters

At least seven small blasts heard in Yangon, fire also breaks out at Chinese-owned factory

YANGON: Myanmar troops fired at anti-coup protesters yesterday, killing at least 13 people and wounding several, media said, as a series of small blasts hit the commercial capital Yangon and a Chinese-owned factory was set on fire.

The country's military ruler said the civil disobedience movement was "destroying" Myanmar.

Despite the use of lethal force to quell the opposition, nationwide protests and strikes have persisted since the Feb 1 coup ended a brief period of civilian-led democracy.

Security forces opened fire yesterday on protesters in the north-western town of Kale as they demanded the restoration of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government, a resident said.

News outlets cited witnesses saying there were casualties and repeated gunfire.

The Mizzima and Irrawaddy news outlets said five people were killed and several wounded.

At least seven small explosions were heard in Yangon, including at government buildings, a military hospital and a shopping mall, residents said. There were no casualties and no claims of responsibility. The US Embassy in Yangon said it had received reports of "handmade 'sound bombs', or fireworks meant to create noise and cause minimal damage".

A fire broke out in the Chinese-owned JOC Garment Factory in Yangon yesterday, the Fire Department said. There were no reports of casualties or the extent of damage.

In another Yangon neighbourhood, activists set fire to the Chinese flag, according to pictures posted on Facebook.

China is viewed as being supportive of the military junta and last month there were arson attacks against 32 Chinese- invested factories in Yangon.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the junta, said in a statement published yesterday that the civil disobedience movement or CDM had halted the working of hospitals, schools, road and factories.

"Although protests are staged in neighbouring countries and the international community, they do not destroy businesses," he said. "CDM is an activity to destroy the country."

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group, 581 people, including dozens of children, have been shot dead by troops and police since the coup, and security forces have arrested close to 3,500 people, with 2,750 still detained. - REUTERS