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International pressure on Myanmar generals grows as protesters march, 1 killed

International pressure on Myanmar generals grows as protesters march, 1 killed

Motorbikes seen passing by near burning barricades in Yangon, on Mar 17, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Opponents of Myanmar's coup protested again on Saturday (Mar 20) as international pressure on the military junta to halt its repression of pro-democracy supporters increased, with Asian neighbours joining Western countries in condemning lethal force.

A young man was shot and killed in one of the most turbulent neighbourhoods of the main city of Yangon, a resident and media reported, taking the death toll since the Feb 1 coup to 238, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

Two people were killed when soldiers opened fire overnight in the northern ruby-mining town of Mogok, the Myanmar Now news portal reported. Those shot were night guards, according to the portal.

"One died on the spot last night while two others are in critical condition in the hospital," a rescue team member confirmed to AFP, declining to give more details.

READ: 2 journalists detained as Myanmar junta clamps down on press

The bloodshed has not quelled the anger over the ouster of the elected government and the detention of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, though some protest organisers say they have had to adapt their tactics.

"We protest where there are no police or military, then when we hear they're coming, we disperse quickly," campaigner Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters from Dawei in the south before he and others staged a brief rally outside the town centre.

"I don't want to lose a single one of my comrades but we'll protest any way we can until our revolution prevails."

"Who says we have to give up because of unequal weapons? We are born for victory," tweeted prominent activist Ei Thinzar Maung, with the hashtag #SpringRevolution.

Protesters prepare to defend themselves as they gather in Tarkata township, Yangon, Myanmar, Mar 20, 20201. (Photo: AP) Myanmar

Some groups gather at night with candles and placards, then melt away after taking photographs. People also stage "unmanned" protests, with rows of placards with messages like "We will never stop until we get democracy" set up on a street.

On Saturday, dozens of demonstrators gathered in the second city of Mandalay. Several were injured when a vehicle drove into them and when police fired rubber bullets, a city news portal reported. It was not clear why the vehicle hit the protesters.

There were small protests in other towns, including Kyaukme and Hsipaw in the northeast, Kawlin in the north, Hpa-an and Myawaddy in the east, Labutta in the Irrawaddy river delta, Myeik in the south and the central town of Yay Oo, according to news portals and social media images.

Hundreds marched in the town of Monywa and burned a copy of the 2008 Constitution, which was drafted under military supervision and limits the powers of elected civilians, the Irrawaddy news portal reported.

Local media showed protesters in gas masks gathering in northern Shan state, while in Dawei, motorists hoisted posters of Aung San Suu Kyi and signs that said: "End the dictatorship".

The protesters in Shan state hoisted homemade shields that said: "Protect unarmed civilians".

Vinyls featuring protest slogans, seen in Yangon, on Mar 17, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Outside of protests, crackdowns by security forces continue on the streets and residential areas across Myanmar, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

"Casualties and unprovoked shootings are increasing day by day," it said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday condemned what he denounced as the military's continuing brutal violence. A "firm, unified international response" was urgently needed, his spokesman quoted him as saying.

UN rapporteur Tom Andrews called for sanctions in response to what he called the generals' ruthless attacks on the people. "The world must respond by cutting their access to money and weapons. Now," he wrote on Twitter.

COMMENTARY: Can Myanmar's civil disobedience movement overturn the coup?

The US House of Representatives approved legislation condemning the coup, and lawmakers decried the increasingly harsh tactics against the demonstrators.

Riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, Mar 19, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

Authorities have tightened restrictions on Internet services, making information increasingly difficult to verify, and have clamped down on private media.

Facebook has banned all pages linked to the military over guidelines on inciting violence. On Saturday, Twitter said it had suspended the information ministry's page under the company's "platform manipulation and spam policy".

The ministry has been posting news daily.

ASIAN ANGER

Ambassadors of Western countries condemned as "immoral and indefensible" the violence in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial district of the commercial capital Yangon, where dozens were killed over several days after Chinese-owned garment factories were torched last weekend.

"Internet blackouts and suppression of the media will not hide the military's abhorrent actions," they said in a statement on Friday.

READ: Myanmar garment workers urge global brands to denounce coup

Asian neighbours, who have for years stuck to a code of not criticising each other's internal problems, have also been speaking out to urge an end to the violence.

Shuttered businesses in Yangon amid protests against the military coup in Myanmar, Mar 20, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, in some of the strongest comments yet by a regional leader, said he would ask Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to call an urgent meeting.

"Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims," Jokowi said in a virtual address.

READ: Indonesia president calls for ASEAN high level meeting on Myanmar crisis

Backing Indonesia's call for a meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he was appalled by the persistent use of lethal violence against unarmed civilians.

"We in Malaysia, and the larger ASEAN community, cannot afford to see our brotherly nation of Myanmar become so destabilised at the hands of a selected few, who seek to promote their own vested interests," he said.

People lining up to withdraw cash out of KBZ Bank ATMs in Yangon, on Mar 17, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Philippine foreign minister Teodoro Locsin said that ASEAN had to act. Singapore has also spoken out against the violence and the coup that triggered it, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

READ: Singapore's Foreign Minister calls on Myanmar's military to stop using lethal force against civilians

But the military has shown no sign of being swayed and has defended its takeover, which derailed a slow transition to democracy in a country that was under strict military rule from a 1962 coup until the generals began democratic reforms a decade ago.

The junta says a Nov 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was fraudulent and its claims were ignored by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election but not set a date.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, faces accusations of bribery and other crimes that could see her banned from politics and jailed if convicted.

Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up. The Nobel peace laureate, who has campaigned for democracy in Myanmar for three decades, is being held at an undisclosed location.

Source: Reuters/dv

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