Myanmar civilian leader says people should defend themselves as toll mounts

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The acting leader of Myanmar’s parallel civilian government said it will seek to give people the legal right to defend themselves as the death toll in protests against last month’s coup exceeded 80, according to an advocacy group.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, who is on the run along with most senior officials from the ruling National League for Democracy Party, addressed the public via Facebook, saying, “This is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that the dawn is close”.He said the civilian government would “attempt to legislate the required laws so that the people have the right to defend themselves” against the military crackdown.

More than 80 people had been killed as of Saturday in widespread protests against the military’s seizure of power, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said. Over 2,100 people have been arrested, it said.

At least 13 people were killed on Saturday, one of the bloodiest days since the Feb. 1 coup, witnesses and domestic media said.

Five people were shot dead and several injured when police opened fire on a sit-in protest in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city, witnesses told Reuters.

Two people were killed in the central town of Pyay and two died in police firing in the commercial capital Yangon, where three were also killed overnight, domestic media reported.

“They are acting like they are in a war zone, with unarmed people,” said Mandalay-based activist Myat Thu. He said the dead included a 13-year-old child.

Si Thu Tun, another protester, said he saw two people shot, including a Buddhist monk. “One of them was hit in the pubic bone, another was shot to death terribly,” he said.

A truck driver in Chauk, a town in the central Magwe Region, died after being shot in the chest by police, a family friend said.

A spokesman for the junta did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment. Junta-run media MRTV’s evening news broadcast labelled the protesters “criminals” but did not elaborate.