News World Gunshots fired as Myanmar police try to disperse protestors
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Gunshots fired as Myanmar police try to disperse protestors

Protestors scatter after gunshots at a protest in Myanmar. Photo: AAP
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Police in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw have fired gunshots into the air to disperse demonstrations against the ruling military, witnesses say, as protesters defied bans on gatherings amid outrage over last week’s coup.

One witness told Reuters demonstrators on Tuesday were running away as guns were fired into the air but not in the direction of the crowd.

The witness said police had initially used water cannon and tried to push a large crowd back, but demonstrators responded with projectiles.

Police also fired rubber bullets, media reported, and a doctor said three of four wounded people brought to his hospital had been struck by rubber bullets.

Footage on social media showed people running, with the sound of several gunshots in the distance.

The February 1 coup and detention of elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has brought four straight days of protests across the Southeast Asian country of 53 million.

A growing civil disobedience movement is affecting hospitals, schools and government offices.

Video in Bago, northeast of the commercial hub of Yangon also showed police firing water cannon and confronting a large crowd.

Residents said bridges connecting central Yangon to populous districts outside were shut early on Tuesday, reviving memories of almost half a century of military rule that lasted until 2015, before being opened to some traffic.

Promises on Monday from junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to eventually hold a new election in his first address since seizing power drew scorn.

He repeated unproven accusations of fraud in last November’s election, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide.

“We will continue to fight,” said a statement from youth activist Maung Saungkha, calling for the release of political prisoners and the “complete collapse of dictatorship”.

Activists are also seeking the abolition of a constitution that gave the army a veto in parliament and for federalism in ethnically-divided Myanmar.

An older generation of activists formed during bloodily suppressed protests in 1988 called for the continuation of the strike action by government workers for another three weeks.

The civil disobedience movement, led by hospital workers, has resulted in a plunge in coronavirus tests, official testing figures showed.

Myanmar has suffered one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Southeast Asia with a total of 31,177 deaths from more than 141,000 cases.

After tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Myanmar in recent days, local orders banning gatherings of more than four people were imposed.

The US Embassy said it had received reports of an 8pm to 4am curfew in the two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay.

In his first televised address as junta leader on Monday, Min Aung Hlaing said the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy,” different to previous eras of military rule.

“We will have a multiparty election and we will hand the power to the one who wins in that election, according to the rules of democracy,” he said.

The junta has said a state of emergency will last one year.

Western governments have widely condemned the coup.

The UN Security Council has called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees. The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis at the behest of Britain and the European Union.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy and spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.

The 75-year-old faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in police detention until February 15.

Suu Kyi remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority.