Myanmar protests: Dozens killed on deadliest day since coup as martial law imposed in Yangon hotspots

Myanmar’s junta imposed martial law in two densely populated Yangon townships on Sunday after at least 38 protesters were killed in the deadliest day of demonstrations since the Feb 1 coup.

More than 80 people have been killed in mass protests since the military wrenched civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power – a toll expected to rise dramatically after Sunday’s violence.

Security forces killed at least 22 anti-coup protesters in the poor, industrial Hlaingthaya suburb of Myanmar’s main city on Sunday after Chinese-financed factories were set ablaze there, an advocacy group said.

A further 16 protesters were killed in other places, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said, as well as one policeman.

State-run media announced late on Sunday that Yangon’s massive Hlaing Tharyar township and the neighbouring Shwepyitha township will be placed under martial law.

The vast and impoverished townships are known as factory hubs and home to garment factories.

The junta “gives administrative and judicial martial law power to the Yangon regional commander… to perform security, maintain the rule of law and tranquility more effectively,” said an announcer on state-run TV.

In Hlaing Tharyar township police and soldiers clashed violently with protesters wielding sticks and knives who hid behind makeshift barricades.

Protesters using cut-out trash cans as shields managed to retrieve some who were wounded when the security forces opened fire, but a doctor said not all could be reached.

A man uses a slingshot during the security force crack down on anti-coup protesters in Mandalay


A man uses a slingshot during the security force crack down on anti-coup protesters in Mandalay


Credit: Reuters/Reuters

It came as the civilian leader of Myanmar’s government-in-hiding urged citizens to come together to win a “revolution” against the military that seized power in a coup, as protests continued on Sunday. 

“This is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that the dawn is close,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than in a video posted on the shadow government’s website and Facebook on Saturday.

He is on the run along with most senior officials from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The military has detained Suu Kyi and other members of her elected government following the Feb. 1 coup. 

“We will never give up to an unjust military, but we will carve our future together with our united power. Our mission must be accomplished,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than in his first public address since he went into hiding.  

Many thousands of people have taken to the streets daily in the South-East Asian nation to protest the coup and demand the military step down. A civil disobedience movement has expanded into a general strike that has halted many sectors of the economy.

Security forces stand guard during a demonstration by protesters against the military coup in Yangon's Hlaing Tharyar township


Security forces stand guard during a demonstration by protesters against the military coup in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar township


Credit: AFP

Mahn Win Khaing Than, who was speaker of the house during Suu Kyi’s previous administration, has been named acting vice-president by representatives of Myanmar’s ousted lawmakers, the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH).

They want to create a federal democracy and have been meeting with representatives of some of Myanmar’s ethnic armed organisations, which control parts of the country.   

 “This revolution is the chance for us to put our efforts together”, said Mahn Win Khaing Than.

The CRPH – which the junta has declared illegal – would also “attempt to legislate” to give citizens the right to defend themselves against the military crackdown, he said. 

At the end of his video message, he flashed a three-fingered salute, which comes from the Hunger Games books and films and has been adopted as a symbol of resistance by protesters. 

Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute think tank in Yangon, said that while the civilian leader’s statement was “rather vague”, he was calling on people to “oppose the regime”.

“I don’t think really that Mahn Win Khaing Than is definitely talking about armed opposition, he wouldn’t go so far as that,” he said. “But one thing is clear – he’s calling upon all people to oppose the dictatorship by any means whatsoever.

“‘We don’t have to say we support the NLD or the CRPH, but … we have to bring down the dictatorship’ – that’s what he’s connoting.”

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