YANGON, Burma (AP) – Burma’s ruling junta declared martial law in parts of the country’s largest city as security forces killed more protesters in an increasingly deadly crackdown on resistance to the country’s military coup. last month.
At least 38 people were killed on Sunday and dozens were injured on one of the deadliest days of the crackdown, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, an independent group that monitors the toll of the violence.
Most of those killed – 34 – were in Yangon, where two townships, Hlaing Thar Yar and neighboring Shwepyitha, were subject to martial law.
A video from Hlaing Thar Yar commune showed people fleeing after hearing gunshots. Those who fled carried an injured person and attempted to revive two others, one of whom appeared dead or dying, the footage from the Independent Democratic Voice of Burma was shown.
Hlaing Thar Yar was the scene of the deaths of 22 civilians on Sunday, according to the humanitarian group, which said more than a dozen civilians were injured and described a large number of junta forces engaged in the township.
Since taking power six weeks ago, Burma has been under a nationwide state of emergency, its civilian leaders ousted and detained, and military leaders in charge of the entire government. But the announcement on state broadcaster MRTV on Sunday night appeared to be the first use of the term martial law since the coup and suggested more direct military control of security, instead of local police.
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The announcement indicates that the State Administrative Council has acted to strengthen security and restore law and order and said the Yangon regional commander has been given administrative, judicial and military powers in the area under his authority. commandment.
Four more deaths have been reported in Bago, Mandalay and the northern town of Hpakant in Kachin state, according to the humanitarian group and local media.
In Yangon, a video posted on social media showed crowds of people, some wearing safety helmets and gas masks, running down a street amid the sounds of gunfire. Protesters quickly sprayed steam from the fire extinguishers as they retreated – a tactic widely used to smother tear gas and create a vapor screen that makes it harder for police to chase or shoot protesters.
Injuries from live ammunition and rubber bullets have also been reported in other parts of Yangon, including Insein District, where swirls of black smoke could be seen after security forces allegedly set fire to the fire. roadblocks.
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In a new tactic, anti-coup protesters used cover of darkness to hold mass candlelight vigils on Saturday and Sunday evening in a commercial area in Yangon that was usually the scene of their daytime protests. After dark rallies have also taken place in Mandalay and elsewhere.
The protest movement has been based on non-violent civil disobedience from the start, with marches and general strikes among its main features. But some protesters advocated stronger and more agile methods of self-defense – such as holding small gatherings that quickly dissolve and come together, and designing a blanket against fire extinguishers and washing clothes.
On Saturday, the civilian head of the Burmese government, in hiding, pledged to continue supporting a “revolution” to oust the military leaders who seized power in the February 1 coup. Mahn Win Khaing Than, who was appointed interim vice president by ousted Burma lawmakers and is a member of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, addressed the public for the first time since the coup .
“This is the nation’s darkest time and the time when dawn is near,” he said in a video posted to the shadow government website and social media.
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“In order to form a federal democracy, which all the ethnic brothers who have suffered from various forms of oppression from the dictatorship for decades have really wanted, this revolution is an opportunity for us to unite our efforts,” he said. he declares.
He added: “We will never give up an unjust army, but we will seal our future with our united power. Our mission must be accomplished.”
At the end of the post, he gave the three-finger salute which has become a symbol of resistance to military leaders.
Sunday’s casualty count by the humanitarian group appears to bring the number of civilians killed by security forces since the coup beyond 100. Confirmation is almost impossible in the country due to the security situation and crackdown on independent media, but various groups have carefully compiled figures with similar figures.
The actual death toll is likely higher, as police apparently seized some bodies and some victims sustained serious gunshot wounds that medical staff at makeshift clinics are said to have difficulty dealing with. Many hospitals are occupied by security forces and are therefore boycotted by medical staff and avoided by protesters.
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Police also aggressively patrolled residential areas at night, firing into the air and setting off stun grenades as a tactic of intimidation. They also took people from their homes in targeted raids with minimal resistance. In at least two known cases, detainees died in custody hours after being taken away.
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