Ex-Myanmar police officers reveal how they were told to shoot protesters – and why they defected
In a safe house in Myanmar, resistance is growing.
Quietly, in the gloomy light, a group of men raise their hands in a three-finger salute.
Traditionally a sign of defiance and support for pro-democracy protesters, for these men it symbolises so much more.
Once police or soldiers, they now plan to fight the forces they used to serve.
Just talking to us is a huge risk; if caught the defectors could be killed.
So in hiding, faces and voices disguised for protection, they explain why they decided to defy the junta.
“We were told that we could shoot the protesters if they gathered in more than five. We could arrest them and shoot them,” Officer A, a former police officer says.
“We were ordered to shoot but we couldn’t do it.”
The allegation echoes the claims of both protesters and human rights groups after February’s military coup.
Myanmar’s security forces have been accused by Amnesty International of “premeditated” attacks on peaceful protesters – including “extrajudicial executions” and indiscriminately spraying bullets in urban areas.
While a shoot-to-kill policy has never been officially confirmed by the junta, the defectors claim they were encouraged to open fire.
“My friends said if they shot the protesters, they would get a promotion as a reward and be praised for being brave and following the junta’s order,” another former police officer, Officer B, tells Sky News.
“They were promoted from police second lieutenant to police lieutenant, from corporal to sergeant. As far as I know, those who shot the protesters got promoted.”
A former soldier in the group tells a similar story.
According to him, challenging an order wasn’t an option.
“The soldiers and police are now abusing the people at the order of Min Aung Hlaing (Myanmar’s junta chief),” he says.
“‘Shoot. Just shoot. This is my order,’ this is how they order the troops. If we did not follow the order, we would be punished.”
As well as the shootings, the military is accused of other abuses: of power, of people, and of their duty to protect.
Some female protesters have publicly accused members of the security forces of physical and sexual violence following their arrests.
The soldier isn’t surprised.
He says he heard reports of sex assaults during his service, in particular during military operations to ethnic minority areas in Myanmar.
“People are calling soldiers ‘military dogs’ [and] also accusing them of rape. Let me tell you, yes, we have seen those scenes at the frontline. I wasn’t involved in it.
“The officers were calling the women here and there and abusing them. Rape as well. It’s happening,” he says,
At least 840 people have been killed since the coup, many shot by junta forces according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
We put the allegations made by the defectors to the junta, but on publication Sky News still hadn’t received a response.
The men say the command to use violence against civilians is the reason they fled and joined the protest movement.
Their choice means the institutions they swore an oath to are the enemy they must defeat and the decision to defect has come at great personal sacrifice.
They have lost their freedom. They cannot see their families. They cannot return to their hometowns or tell friends where they are.
They now live their lives in hiding and on the run, waiting in dark, cramped and basic accommodation fearing they may be discovered.
Yet still they remain defiant – determined to fight for the democracy lost when the military seized power.
Since the coup, some protesters have travelled to border areas in Myanmar for resistance training and now some of the defectors are planning to use their own skills to help them.
“Those [protesters] who are not familiar with the military training, they need to learn how to use the weapons, to fix them, and set them up.
“I want to teach them. I will join with those organisations that are in the revolution to fight the junta.
“I will fight those power-hungry thugs,” the soldier says.
“I will join this revolution until the end. I will give my life. I will kill them wherever I see them.”
So in secret they plan, they train, they get strong; preparing to strike back against the generals they followed for so long.
Kevin McCarthy: US House Speaker removed from office for first time in history
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been removed from office after a historic challenge to his leadership from his own party.
The Republican faced a motion to vacate, which was triggered by Donald Trump ally Matt Gaetz on Monday, just months after securing the position in 15 rounds of voting.
It is the first time in the country’s history that House representatives have voted the Speaker out.
Behind closed doors early on Tuesday, Mr McCarthy told fellow Republicans: “If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago.”
Several Republicans, however, had said they were sticking with Mr McCarthy as they emerged from the meeting, during which they said he received standing ovations.
It follows a decision made by Mr McCarthy over the weekend to cooperate with the Democrats to keep the government running rather than risk a shutdown.
It is a move that angered Mr Gaetz and other far-right Republicans, as Mr McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension on Saturday that avoided a partial government shutdown.
A band of about 20 Republicans had forced Mr McCarthy’s hand by repeatedly blocking other legislation.
Mr Gaetz and his allies said they were frustrated by the slow pace of spending legislation on Mr McCarthy’s watch.
Republican Representative Tim Burchett, who said he would vote to oust Mr McCarthy, said: “We took a whole month of August off. I think that that’s pretty telling.”
Another day of history in US politics
It’s political pantomime, without the laughs.
To look at the House of Representatives is to see the turbulence of America’s political ecosystem.
The ousting of Kevin McCarthy leaves the lower chamber of Congress in a state of paralysis.
There will be an interim Speaker but his or her role will effectively amount to finding a permanent replacement.
It is a dysfunction at the heart of power, an extension of the fault lines that fracture the modern-day Republican Party.
Never before has a House Speaker been ejected in this way, another day of history in US politics
The history-makers at the wheel have travelled a distance from the party fringes to positions of influence.
Matt Gaetz is the high-profile House representative who tabled the motion to oust McCarthy.
He’s prominent amongst a hard-line conservative core of House Republicans, Trump-aligned, and bent on reshaping party traditions and reorientating its trajectory to the right.
It is a tail that can wag the dog and this episode is clear evidence of it.
The rules dictate that just one representative – Mr Gaetz in this case – can trigger a vote to oust the Speaker.
That arrangement was a deal Mr McCarthy struck in January to appease his party’s right wing and enable his accession to the position of Speaker.
It didn’t look like clever politics by Mr McCarthy at the time and it looks even less so today.
Today, politics are harder in a party whose politics have changed.
Not all are convinced by Mr Gaetz’s intentions, with some Republicans believing he is angling for a change at a higher office.
“It seems very personal with Matt. It doesn’t look like he’s looking out for the country or the institution,” Mr McCarthy said.
Mr Gaetz has denied he is spurred on by a dislike of Mr McCarthy.
‘Apocalyptic scene’ as coach crashes off overpass near Venice
At least 21 people have died in a coach crash near Venice in northern Italy, according to authorities.
Another 18 people were injured in the crash on Tuesday evening, with Italian police confirming there were tourists of “various nationalities” on board.
There were at least two children among the passengers, police added, while Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, said they found Ukrainian passports at the scene.
“Several of the victims were foreigners, we found Ukrainian passports,” he said.
With rescue operations ongoing, the number of deaths could climb higher.
“The bus was rented for its guests by Camping Jolly in Marghera,” police said.
“On board, at the time of the accident, there were tourists of various nationalities. Also with them were at least two minors.”
Mr Brugnaro described the incident as a “terrible tragedy”.
“I immediately ordered the city to go into mourning, in memory of the many victims who were in the crashed bus,” he posted on social media.
“An apocalyptic scene, there are no words.”
The coach fell close to railway lines after veering off a road in the district of Mestre, which is connected to Venice by a bridge, Italian television and news agencies reported.
According to Sky Italia, 18 bodies have so far been dragged from the wreckage after the coach fell 15 metres (49ft) onto electricity lines and caught fire.
The cause of the accident was still unclear, but one of Italy’s national police forces said officers are on the scene to investigate and to “give aid” to those hurt.
The railway is also “currently interrupted”.
Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, said her thoughts are with the victims.
“I express my deepest condolences, my personal and that of the entire government, for the serious accident that occurred in Mestre,” she posted on social media.
“My thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends. I am in close contact with the Mayor Luigi Brugnaro and with the Minister (of the interior) Matteo Piantedosi to follow the news on this tragedy.”
Italy has suffered a number of deadly bus crashes in recent years.
In 2013, 40 people died when a bus plunged off a viaduct in southern Italy in one of the country’s worst road accidents.
Four years later, 16 people on a bus carrying Hungarian students died in an accident near the northern city of Verona.
This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.
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Thailand: Boy, 14, arrested as three shot dead in Bangkok’s Siam Paragon Mall
A 14-year-old has been arrested after three people were shot dead in a Bangkok shopping centre.
Footage shows crowds fleeing the Siam Paragon Mall – a luxury complex in the Thai capital – while some hid inside.
Emergency services said three people had been killed and six wounded in the afternoon shooting.
The suspect is just 14 years old, according to police.
Photos show him pinned to the floor and being handcuffed and an officer picking up a gun.
One of the injured is reported to be a foreign national.
The teenager was cornered at nearby Siam Kempinski Hotel at around 5.10pm and surrendered without a struggle, Bangkok Post reported.
The central investigation bureau earlier shared a grainy image of him wearing a cap and khaki cargo trousers.
The local Siam train stop was closed and people prevented from leaving the station as emergency services responded.
Read more from Sky News:
Family wants answers over Briton’s death in Vietnam
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Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin posted on X: “I am aware of the shooting event at Siam Paragon and have ordered the police to investigate. I am most worried about public safety,”
Authorities said later that the situation was under control.
In 2020, a disgruntled soldier killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage in and around the city of Nakhon Ratchasima.
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