Protesters holding placards against the coup shouting slogans through megaphones in the court building.
Kaung Zaw Hein | Images SOPA | LightRocket | fake images
Large crowds marched in Myanmar on Sunday to denounce a February 1 military coup in a show of defiance after the bloodiest episode in the campaign for democracy the day before, when security forces fired at protesters, killing two.
The military has been unable to quell the protests and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes against the coup and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others, even with the promise of new elections and stern warnings against dissent.
Tens of thousands of people gathered peacefully in the second city of Mandalay, where the killings took place on Saturday, witnesses said.
“They targeted the heads of unarmed civilians. They targeted our future,” a young protester told the crowd.
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun has not responded to attempts by Reuters to reach him by phone for comment.
He told a press conference Tuesday that the army’s actions were within the constitution and supported by the majority of the people, and blamed the protesters for instigating the violence.
In the main city of Yangon, thousands of people, mostly young people, gathered in different places to chant slogans and sing.
“We young people have our dreams, but this military coup has created many obstacles,” Ko Pay said in Yangon. “That is why we came out in front of the protests.”
In Myitkyina, in the north, people laid flowers for the dead protesters. Large crowds marched in the central cities of Monywa and Bagan, in Dawei and Myeik in the south, Myawaddy in the east and Lashio in the northeast, released images showed.
A protester has her head bandaged after being beaten by security forces during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay on February 20, 2021.
STR | AFP | fake images
At the Inle Lake resort, people, including Buddhist monks, made their way to a flotilla of boats bearing portraits of Suu Kyi and signs reading “military coup – end.”
The more than two weeks of protests had been largely peaceful until Saturday, unlike previous episodes of opposition during nearly half a century of direct military rule until 2011.
The violence seemed unlikely to end the turmoil.
“The number of people will increase … We will not stop,” said protester Yin Nyein Hmway in Yangon.
The problem in Mandalay began with clashes between the security forces and striking shipyard workers.
Video clips on social media showed members of the security forces firing at protesters, and witnesses said they found the spent cartridges of real bullets.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said he was horrified by the deaths of the two, one of them a teenager.
“From water cannons to rubber bullets and tear gas and now hardened troops firing point-blank at peaceful protesters. This madness must end, now,” he said on Twitter.
The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the strikers sabotaged ships in the city’s river port and attacked police with clubs, knives and catapults. Eight police officers and several soldiers were injured, he said.
“Some of the aggressive protesters were also injured due to security measures carried out by the security force in accordance with the law,” the newspaper said without mentioning the deaths.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) condemned the violence by the security forces in Mandalay as a crime against humanity.
A young protester, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, became the first death among protesters on Friday. He was shot in the head on February 9 in the capital, Naypyitaw.
Hundreds of people attended his funeral on Sunday.
The military media said that the bullet that killed her did not come from any weapon used by the police, so it must have been fired by an “external weapon.”
The army says a policeman died from injuries sustained in a protest.
The military seized power after denouncing fraud in the November 8 elections that swept the NLD, detaining Suu Kyi and others. The electoral commission dismissed the allegations of fraud.
Facebook removed the homepage of the armed forces for repeated violations of its rules “which prohibit incitement to violence and coordinate harm” and Western countries that condemned the coup condemned the violence.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was “deeply concerned.”
France, Singapore, Britain and Germany also condemned the violence, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the deadly force was unacceptable.
The United States, Britain and others have announced limited sanctions, targeting military leaders, but generals have ignored foreign pressure.
Suu Kyi faces one charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Act and illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios. His next court appearance is March 1.
A human rights group said 569 people have been detained in connection with the coup.