Dozens of people have been killed in violent, fiery clashes in Myanmar in one of the bloodiest days of protests against last month’s military coup.
Protests are now in their sixth week since the coup toppled elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and plunged the Southeast Asian country into turmoil, with the economy paralysed by strikes.
Security forces opened fire on crowds in Hlaingthaya, a poor suburb of Yangon, on Sunday as plumes of black smoke rose over the area.
Protesters holding sticks took cover behind shields amid burning road blocks as they faced armed forces.
Local media outlet Myanmar Now initially said at least 14 protesters were killed in Yangon and dozens more injured. Other deaths were reported elsewhere in Myanmar on Sunday, including in the second city of Mandalay and in Bago.
By early Monday morning, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) had counted a total of 39 deaths in the past day.
At least 22 protesters were killed in Hlaingthaya and a further 16 were killed in other places, the AAPP said. One of the dead was a police officer.
A funeral is held for 29-year-old Ye Swe Oo of Mandalay, who was killed by security forces on Saturday at a protest. He was shot in his chest with live ammunition while attempting to rescue trapped students. He is survived by his wife and 5-year-old daughter. #myanmarcoup pic.twitter.com/qYIgmIjd6e
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) March 14, 2021
The junta had declared martial law in the area after Chinese businesses were attacked, state television reported.
China’s embassy in Myanmar said many Chinese staff were injured and trapped when factories were looted and set ablaze.
Opponents of the coup have criticised China for not coming out more strongly against the army takeover as Western countries have done.
The violence came a day after Mahn Win Khaing Than, the acting leader of a parallel civilian government, vowed in his first address to pursue a “revolution” to overturn military coup.
Mahn Win Khaing Than, who is on the run along with most senior officials from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party, said the civilian government would seek to give people the legal right to defend themselves.
Ms Suu Kyi is due to return to court on Monday. She faces at least four charges, including the illegal use of walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols.
The army seized power after alleging fraud in a November 8 election won by her party. It has promised to hold a new election, but has not set a date.
The latest deaths would bring the toll from the protests to nearly 100 while the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners group said over 2100 had been arrested.