Burma police made mass arrests at anti-coup demonstrations Sunday and reportedly killed at least two protesters in the fourth week of unrest since a military takeover on Feb. 1.
The bloodshed came as the military has started to crack down on the protests that have continued the entire month after elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested along with President Win Myint and most members of Suu Kyi’s administration in a military coup.
Some reports said two protesters were killed in Yangon and Dawei after police fired on demonstrators while other accounts said at least three people were killed in Yangon.
The number of fatalities could not immediately be independently confirmed, The Associated Press reported. Confirming reports of protesters’ deaths has been difficult amid the chaos and general lack of official news.
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Police in Yangon, the nation’s most populous city, fired tear gas and water cannons while trying to clear the streets of demonstrators. There were also reports of gunfire on the part of the police evidenced by photos of shell casings from live ammunition used in assault rifles that were posted on social media.
Thousands have taken to the streets, demanding Suu Kyi be restored to power in defiance of the military’s false allegations of fraud in her landslide win for a second five-year term.
Sunday’s violence erupted in the early morning when medical students were marching in Yangon’s streets near the Hledan Center intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city.
Videos and photos showed protesters running away as police charged at them, and residents setting up makeshift roadblocks to slow their advance. Nearby, residents were pleading with police to release those they picked up from the street and shoved into police trucks to be taken away. Dozens or more were believed to have been detained.
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Police have resorted to harsher, preemptive action and dozens to hundreds of arrests to quell dissent and many have been taken to Insein Prison in Yangon’s northern outskirts, historically notorious for holding political prisoners.
According to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, as of Saturday, 854 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced at one point in relation to the coup, and 771 were being detained or sought for arrest. The group said that while it had documented 75 new arrests, it understood that hundreds of other people were also picked up Saturday in Yangon and elsewhere.
The government also fired its ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday night for condemning the coup — or as the military called it, “betraying” the country.
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Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun in New York City on Friday said he represented Suu Kyi’s “civilian government elected by the people” and supported the anti-coup protests. He urged other counties to condemn the coup.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.