Unusual small pro-military rallies held in Myanmar

BANGKOK (AP) — Rare demonstrations in support of Myanmar’s military-installed government were held Monday in several of the country’s towns and cities, as militants opposed to the army’s February seizure of power continued their resistance.

The relatively small rallies in at least nine locations, with crowds topping out at about 200 people, were evidently linked to the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which begins Tuesday. No violence was reported in the demonstrations, some of which included Buddhist monks.

ASEAN has excluded Myanmar’s leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, from the summit because of his government’s refusal to allow the group’s special envoy to meet with the country’s ousted former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been detained since the army seized power in February.

Some demonstrators seen on social media held photos of Min Aung Hlaing, who is hated by many people opposed to military rule. They also carried banners condemning groups opposed to the army and chanted “The military and the people are standing together.” It was not clear who organized the events, which were strongly nationalistic.

In Meikhtila, in central Mandalay Region, a resistance group urged residents not to go out unnecessarily and not to communicate with the authorities.

After the pro-military march in downtown Meiktila, a bomb exploded near a police station and at least three policemen were injured, local media reported, citing residents. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Myanmar says it cannot allow a visit to Suu Kyi because she is detained and facing criminal charges. It also says ASEAN failed to follow it own procedures in saying Min Aung Hlaing could not attend its summit. ASEAN has invited a non-political representative instead of him to attend, but Myanmar refused that offer late Monday.

ASEAN since April has sought to play a mediating role in Myanmar’s political crisis, as the military’s efforts to quash opposition have triggered increasingly violent and destabilizing resistance. Almost 1,200 civilians are estimated to have been killed by security forces. The government says a smaller number of people were killed because of necessary actions to restore order.

From February to late October, according to a recent statement by the Foreign Ministry, there have been 986 terror attacks, 2,344 bomb attacks and 312 arson attacks.

“Due to their terrorist attacks, 1,155 civilians died and 765 people were injured. Moreover, a total of 182 persons including 75 military personnel, 93 police personnel and 14 civil servants died while 602 were injured. A total of 251 schools and education buildings were torched and bombed by the terrorists. They destroyed roads and railways for 536 times and 76 bridges were also damaged,” the ministry said.

The government’s claims, like those of its opponents, cannot be independently checked, but offer a partial sense of the scope of violence in Myanmar.

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