A military vehicle drove through a group of protesters in Myanmar on Sunday, resulting in fatalities and leaving at least eight people injured, according to the local news media, witnesses and video footage from the scene.
The episode occurred on Sunday morning in Yangon, Myanmar’s most populous city. Soldiers fired into the group, according to two witnesses. A video of the incident included the sound of gunfire, but it was not clear who or what was being fired upon.
There were conflicting reports on fatalities. The Irrawaddy and Myanmar Now, two news outlets that cover Myanmar, reported that five protesters had died. One witness said the soldiers had also kicked the wounded protesters and arrested several others.
The excessive force used by the military as it has tried to quell protests against a Feb. 1 coup has infuriated people throughout the country and could very well spur more demonstrations. Despite the harsh punishments meted out by the junta, hundreds of people have organized flash-mob protests — including the one on Sunday — in cities and villages across the country to show opposition to military rule.
On Sunday, the demonstrators had gathered between 8 and 9 a.m. in the western part of Yangon. They marched through the streets, holding a banner with a portrait of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s ousted civilian leader, who was detained in the coup. Another banner carried a quote of hers: “The only real prison is fear, and the real freedom is freedom from fear.”
The protest came a day before a court is expected to deliver the first of several verdicts against Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who is facing 11 charges and a maximum imprisonment of 102 years.
On Sunday, the protesters held up their hands in a three-finger salute that originated in the “Hunger Games” series and is used universally in Myanmar as a symbol of resistance against the military. According to video footage, they yelled, “Return back the people’s power,” and “Free all political prisoners.” A witness said there were roughly 30 people in the flash mob.
Videos posted on social media showed the military truck accelerating through the group as several protesters ran in the opposite direction. Photographs showed a body lying in the middle of the road and scattered roses on the ground, with several injured people sitting on the side.
In a statement on Facebook, the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said it was “horrified” by the reports and called on the junta “to end the use of violence, release those unjustly detained and respect the will of the people.”
Understanding the Chaos in Myanmar
“The military’s widespread use of brutal violence underscores the urgency of restoring Burma’s path to inclusive democracy,” the embassy said, referring to Myanmar by its former name.
One of the injured protesters, who asked not to be named, fearing official retribution, said the protesters had been caught unaware because the military vehicle suddenly overtook a bus, which was right behind the protesters.
When the vehicle plowed into the group, the injured protester said, he fell on the hood of the vehicle and a soldier struck his head with the butt of his gun. He said he kicked the soldier, who fired in his direction but missed.
In the aftermath, soldiers flooded the streets of Yangon. One photograph showed a soldier standing over a protester, who knelt in front of a sign that said, “The Yangon People’s Revolution cannot be defeated.”
On Sunday afternoon, dozens of people gathered in Yangon, carrying umbrellas in the rain and singing a lullaby in tribute to the protesters who had died. All of them held up three fingers.