At least 550 people killed by Myanmar’s military since February coup, says advocacy group

At least 550 people have been killed by Myanmar’s military in the aftermath of a coup which overthrew the elected government on February 1, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group based in neighboring Thailand.

Security officials have responded to dissent with a brutal crackdown and detained thousands, including at least 11 people arrested in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon Friday, minutes after being interviewed by CNN journalists.

The CNN team visited the Ten Miles bazaar in Yangon’s Insein township, where they interviewed a number of local residents. Among the interviewees were two women who raised the three-finger protest salute.

The pair were arrested by a group of security officials within three to five minutes of the CNN team leaving the area, according to eyewitnesses.

The women work at a shop in the market. They were taken to Shwe Pyi Thar Interrogation Center, sources close to the women said.

Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the two arrests in an interview with CNN on Sunday, and said that in total, three people were detained after interacting with the team in Insein.

In a separate incident Friday the CNN team interviewed residents at Yangon’s Mingaladon market. A man and a woman were arrested following the interview.

A relative of the two Mingaladon detainees approached the CNN team and told them what had happened. She was then also arrested once the team moved away from the area. In total, eight people were arrested following the CNN team’s visit to Mingaladon, according to the military spokesman.

The spokesperson said that the military expressed “regret” over the arrests, and had instructed local security forces in Yangon to release those detained as early as Sunday.

However, sources close to the detainees told CNN on Sunday that at least five people are still being held in Shwe Pyi Thar interrogation Center.

The military junta in Myanmar has cut all wireless internet services until further notice, in what appears to be a concerted effort to control communications and messaging in the Southeast Asian country.

Pro-democracy demonstrators have repeatedly filled streets across the nation for two months after the government was overthrown by the military.

Ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged on Thursday with violating the country’s Official Secrets Act, while the security services have sought to clamp down on protests.

Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday that the junta had “forcibly disappeared hundreds of people” — including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters since the coup.

According to AAPP, at least 2,751 people, among them journalists, protesters, activists, government officials, trade unionists, writers, students, civilians and even children, have been detained as of April 2, often in nighttime raids.

CNN is in Myanmar with the permission of the military and is being escorted by the military.

‘We are aware of reports of detentions following our team’s visit to Yangon, Myanmar on Friday,” a CNN spokesperson said Saturday.

“We are pressing the authorities for information on this, and for the safe release of any detainees.”

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