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Myanmar: Weekend protest death toll rises

March 14, 2021

Violence at anti-coup protests in Myanmar has claimed more lives as security forces continue their clampdown. But a group of lawmakers in hiding has called on protesters to continue resistance to military rule.

Woman holding a candle at a nighttime rally in Yangon
Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar have begun holding nighttime ralliesImage: Stringer/Reuters

Security forces in Myanmar again fired at people demonstrating against the February 1 military putschon Sunday, with the death toll from six weeks of protests expected to rise dramatically following the weekend's events.

At least three people were reported to have been killed by police gunfire in Hlaing Thar Yar Township in the commercial hub of Yangon, and several others there are said to be suffering from life-threatening injuries. One other person was killed in the northern city of Hpakant and another in Mandalay. 

This comes after at least seven demonstrators were reportedly killed at protests in various locations on Saturday, including four in Mandalay, the country's second-largest city. Some estimates put the number of dead at 13.

The overall death toll since the start of the protests is believed to be about 80, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group, which also says that more than 2,100 people have been arrested.

Protesters have begun holding nighttime rallies as well in defiance of an 8 p.m. curfew.

Protesters holding up cell phones with LED lights on in Yangon
One night rally on Saturday was held in YangonImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

Defiant message

As the demonstrations continue, Myanmar's shadow government has urged people to keep protesting against what it called the military's "unjust dictatorship" in a recorded video message on Facebook.

"This is the darkest moment of the nation and the light before the dawn is close," said Mahn Win Khaing Than, a high-ranking politician from the National League for Democracy (NLD) party of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mahn Win Khaing Than is the acting vice president of the CRPH group of elected parliamentarians who have largely gone into hiding after the NLD was ousted from power in the putsch.

Mahn Win Khaing Than speaking  in Naypyitaw
Mahn Win Khaing Than was placed under house arrest during the February coup, activists sayImage: Aung Shine Oo/AP Photo/picture alliance

"This uprising is also the chance for all of us to struggle together hand in hand to establish a federal democratic union which we — all ethnic brothers and sisters who have been suffering various kinds of oppression from military dictatorship — have long desired," the 68-year-old said, adding: "We must win the uprising."

Electoral fraud accusations

Andrew Nachemson, a journalist covering the protests in Yangon, told DW that the "majority of people in Myanmar see this group of civilian leaders as the legitimate government."

"They have the ability to influence the protest movement and to inspire the protesters," he added.

The junta has justified its coup with allegations of widespread fraud in November elections that saw the NLD party win a landslide victory. It has called the formation of the CRPH "high treason," a crime that carries the maximum sentence of 22 years in jail.

CRPH stands for "Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw" — the Burmese word for the country's governing bloc.

tj/mm (AP, AFP, dpa)