Security forces in Myanmar fire slingshots and rubber bullets as they intensify crackdown on anti-coup protesters

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Irvine

Security forces in Myanmar have fired slingshots and rubber bullets in a bid to quell large-scale anti-coup demonstrations on Monday.

More than 1,000 protesters were rallying in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay calling for the military junta that seized power earlier this month to reinstate the elected government.

At least 10 trucks full of soldiers and police arrived and started firing slingshots toward the protesters before they even got out of the trucks, according to a photographer who witnessed the events.

A policeman aims a slingshot during a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank. Credit: AP

They then attacked the protesters with sticks and slingshots, and police could be seen aiming long guns into the air amid sounds that resembled gunfire.

Local media reported that rubber bullets were also fired into the crowd, and that a few people were injured.

Police were also seen pointing guns toward the protesters.

A man aims a rifle from inside a vehicle while a soldier holds a slingshot. Credit: AP

In the capital, Naypyitaw, protesters gathered outside a police station demanding the release of a group of high school students who were detained while joining in anti-coup activities.

One student who managed to escape told reporters that the pupils - thought to range in age from 13 to 16 - were demonstrating peacefully when a line of riot police suddenly arrived and began arresting them.

It wasn’t clear exactly how many students were rounded up, but estimates put the figure at between 20 and 40.

Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday, following a night in which authorities cut the country’s internet access and increased the security presence in major cities seeking to curtail demonstrations.

Thousands of engineers marched on the streets of Mandalay chanting and holding signs that read: 'Free our leader', 'Who stands with justice?' and 'Stop arresting people illegally at midnight'.

Protester holds a sign that reads 'We Want Justice' next to deployed soldiers in Yangon. Credit: AP

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered on Monday due to the loss of the internet and reports of military vehicles on the streets.

Demonstrators carried placards that read '#SupportCDM #SaveMyanmar'.

CDM refers to the civil disobedience movement that has seen doctors, engineers and others in Myanmar refuse to work until the military releases elected political leaders and returns the country to civilian rule.

Some protesters posed for photographs in front of military vehicles while holding red signs that read “Join in CDM.”

Earlier on Monday, Myanmar’s military leaders extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose remand was set to expire and whose freedom is a key demand of the crowds of people continuing to protest the February 1 coup.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. Credit: AP

Suu Kyi will now be remanded until February 17, when she will likely appear in court by videoconference, according to Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer asked by Suu Kyi’s party to represent her.

The Nobel laureate remains under house arrest on a minor charge of possessing unregistered imported walkie-talkies.

When the military seized power, it detained Suu Kyi and members of her government and prevented recently elected politicians from opening a new session of Parliament.

The junta, led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, said it stepped in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.

A protester holds a placard with a zero symbol over the face of Commander in chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. Credit: AP

The state election commission refuted that contention, saying there is no evidence to support it.

The military justified its move by citing a clause in the 2008 constitution, implemented during military rule, that says in cases of national emergency, the government’s executive, legislative and judicial powers can be handed to the military commander-in-chief.

It is just one of many parts of the charter that ensured the military could maintain ultimate control over the country it ruled for 50 years following a 1962 coup.

The military is allowed to appoint its members to 25% of seats in Parliament and it controls several key ministries involved in security and defence.

An order on Sunday that appeared to be from the Ministry of Transport and Communications told mobile phone service providers to shut down internet connections from 1am to 9am Monday.

On Sunday, ambassadors from the United States and Canada and 12 European nations called on Myanmar’s security forces to refrain from violence against those "protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government".

They condemned the arrests of political leaders and activists as well as the military’s interference with communications.

"We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity," they said in a joint statement issued on Sunday night. "The world is watching."