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Myanmar activists plan new protests after weekend bloodshed

Myanmar activists plan new protests after weekend bloodshed

Anti-coup protesters flash three-fingered gesture, a symbol of resistance, during a rally outside their homes in downtown Yangon, Myanmar on Mar 22, 2021. (AP Photo)

Myanmar activists plan fresh protests on Monday (Mar 22) including a call for vehicle convoys to drive through intersections honking horns with occupants raising three-finger anti-coup salutes despite reports of security forces killing more people at the weekend.

Media reported dawn protests in at least two parts of the commercial hub of Yangon on Monday after hundreds of people in Mandalay, including many medical staff in white coats, marched before sunrise on Sunday.

The Southeast Asian nation has been locked in crisis since the elected government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1 was overthrown by the military, bringing an end to 10 years of tentative democratic reform.

One man was shot dead and several were wounded when police opened fire on a group setting up a barricade in the central town of Monywa, a doctor there said on Sunday as a community group issued a call on Facebook for blood donors.

Later, one person was killed and another wounded in the country's second city of Mandalay when security forces opened fire after residents tried to resist efforts by the military to set up a base in a school, the Myanmar Now news portal reported.

READ: Commentary: Social media worsens growing anti-China sentiments in Southeast Asia

At least 250 people have now been killed since the coup, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

The violence has forced many citizens to think up novel ways to express their rejection of a return to army rule.

To mark the one-month anniversary of the launch of one of the biggest demonstrations since the coup and a national strike, activists in posts on social media urged people on Monday to join a car convoy protest.

Protesters across the country staged candle-lit, nighttime protests over the weekend.

Anti-coup protesters flash three-fingered gesture, a symbol of resistance, during a rally outside their homes in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, on Mar 22, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Protesters in some places were joined by Buddhist monks holding candles at the weekend and others came out later on Sunday, including in Monywa, where police opened fire.

"Sniper, sniper," people can be heard shouting in a video clip shortly after the man was shot in the head and more shots rang out.

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

The spokesman for the junta was not available for comment but has previously said security forces have used force only when necessary.

State media said on Sunday that men on motorbikes attacked a member of the security forces who later died. The military said two policemen were killed in earlier protests.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN DIPLOMATIC PUSH

The junta says a Nov 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party was fraudulent, an accusation rejected by the electoral commission. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date.

Western countries have repeatedly condemned the coup and the violence. Asian neighbours, who have for years avoided criticising each other, have also begun speaking out.

In a sign of a new diplomatic push in Southeast Asia, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will visit Brunei Darussalam on Monday before going to Malaysia and Indonesia.

The trip comes as Indonesia and Malaysia seek an urgent high-level meeting of Southeast Asia's regional grouping, of which Myanmar is a member, on the crisis.

Brunei is currently chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on Mar 2 failed to make a breakthrough.

READ: Myanmar protesters voice defiance as junta reminds of 'external threats'

The military, which sees itself as the sole guardian of national unity and ruled for nearly 50 years after a 1962 coup, has shown no sign of even considering back-tracking on its seizure of power.

Coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing visited the Coco islands, one of Myanmar's most strategically important outposts, 400km south of Yangon, on Saturday and reminded members of the armed force there that their main duty was to defend the country against external threats.

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.

Australian media reported that two Australian business consultants were detained as they tried to leave Myanmar, but it was not clear why. An Australian foreign ministry spokesperson said it was providing consular assistance but declined to comment further for privacy reasons.

Source: Reuters/lk

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