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Myanmar Buddhist monks denounce junta and demand an end to violence

MYANMAR’S government-appointed Buddhist monks’ organisation called for an end to violence against demonstrators today as it announced that it would suspend all activities in protest.

The influential State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, which has traditionally supported the government and armed forces, held an “armed minority” responsible for the torture and killing of civilians during anti-government protests against last month’s military coup.

According to activist group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 200 people have been killed since the military seized power on February 1 as peaceful protests were violently suppressed.

At least 74 were killed on Sunday, the bloodiest day, and another 20 on Monday. Mass funerals took place across Yangon on Tuesday.

The open criticism of Myanmar’s military junta signifies a major rift with the Buddhists, who have a long history of activism and were at the forefront of the so-called Saffron Revolution in 2007, which paved the way for democratic reforms.

A final statement is due to be released on Thursday, an unnamed monk told the Myanmar Now news portal, once the group has consulted the religious affairs minister.

The country has been rocked by a wave of protests and strikes in most major towns and cities since last month’s power grab, which ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

The military junta cited unfounded allegations of electoral fraud in November’s poll, which was won by the NLD in a landslide. Many leading government officials, including Ms Suu Kyi, have been detained and charged with a range of offences.

Earlier this week, General Min Aung Hlaing imposed martial law in six areas of Yangon and in parts of the second city Mandalay, according United Nations commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet.

Internet and mobile phone networks were blocked again today, making it harder to get information out of the country amid fears of further violence.

Thousands of people fled the impoverished district of Hlaingthaya on Tuesday when martial law was imposed.

An unnamed trade union organiser said that it was like “a war zone,” with soldiers shooting everywhere and many people too frightened to go outside.

According to Myanmar Now, the military commander in Yangon has “full administrative and judicial authority” in the areas under martial law. Those arrested face military courts and sentences including hard labour and execution. 

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