Myanmar protesters persist following deadliest day

Protesters again took to the streets in cities and towns across Myanmar on Thursday, following the deadliest day thus far in ongoing demonstrations opposing a military coup.

At least 38 people died in anti-coup protests Wednesday, according to the United Nations special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener. Video footage from several cities and towns showed police firing live rounds into crowds of protesters.

On Thursday, there were reports of security forces breaking up demonstrations in Yangon with tear gas and gunfire. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Yangon protesters hung sheets on lines across the street to block the line of sight for police aiming their guns, Reuters news agency reported.

Local journalist Cape Diamond tweeted a video from Yangon showing protesters encountering a wall of tear gas.

In the second largest city, Mandalay, fighter jets made several low passes in formation over the city as protesters gathered in the streets.

Thousands of protesters in the city were attending a funeral procession for a young university student who was killed during a demonstration Wednesday.

What started the protests?

Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, took power on February 1, ousting the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) and arresting its leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Protesters are demanding a return to civilian-led government.

Since the start of the coup, Myanmar security forces have arrested nearly 1,500 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

The AAPP says more than 50 protesters have been killed in total. The first death took place on February 19.

There have also been reports of journalists being rounded up and arrested.

“We know that we can always get shot and killed with live bullets but there is no meaning to staying alive under the junta,” activist Maung Saungkha told Reuters.

International response

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Wednesday’s violence on Twitter.

“France calls for an immediate end to the repression in Myanmar, for the liberation of people who have been held and for the respect of the democratic choice of the Myanmar people as expressed during the recent elections. We are at your side,” he wrote.

The US State Department said it was “appalled and revulsed” by Wednesday’s violence.

“We call on all countries to speak with one voice to condemn the brutal violence by the Burmese military against its own people,” said spokesman Ned Price.

UN envoy Schraner Burgener said she had warned Myanmar’s military prior that it was likely to face international backlash and isolation for its increasingly violent crackdown.

She reported that deputy military chief Soe Win responded by saying “We are used to sanctions, and we survived … We have to learn to walk with only few friends.”

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