YANGON: Myanmar security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters in the commercial capital Yangon on Sunday (Mar 14), leaving at least three people dead, witnesses and domestic media said.
Video taken at the site showed protesters holding handmade shields and wearing helmets as they confronted security forces in the Hlaing Tharyar district of the city. Plumes of black smoke rose over the area, and one report said two factories in the district had been set on fire.
The Irrawaddy media group said three people were killed.
Two more people were killed elsewhere in the country a day after the acting leader of the parallel civilian government said it will seek to give people the legal right to defend themselves.
A young man was shot and killed in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and domestic media said.
The Kachin Wave media outlet said another protester was killed in the town of Hpakant, in the jade mining area in the northeast. “Kyaw Lin Hteik died when he arrived at the hospital … he had a gunshot on the right side of his chest and he lost too much blood,” said a local doctor who declined to be named.
He added that another three people were hit by rubber bullets and had to be transferred to state capital Myitkyina, where hospitals are better equipped.
READ: Myanmar’s UN ambassador urges stronger international response, vows to continue to ‘fight back’ against the junta
Despite the growing death toll, protesters continued to take to the streets Sunday – from civil servants hoisting Aung San Suu Kyi’s poster defiantly at a march through the central city of Monywa to a sit-in in commercial hub Yangon.
“May the fallen heroes who have given their lives in this spring revolution rest in peace!” chanted protesters wearing hard hats in Yangon’s Thaketa township.
Gunshots were heard Sunday in at least two hotspots of unrest – garment-producing hub Hlaing Tharyar and the once-bustling shopping junction Hledan.
More than 80 people had been killed as of Saturday in widespread protests against the military’s seizure of power last month, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said. Over 2,100 people have been arrested, it said.
Mahn Win Khaing Than, the acting leader of Myanmar’s parallel civilian government, addressed the public via Facebook on Saturday, saying: “This is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that the dawn is close.”
He is on the run along with most senior officials from the ruling National League for Democracy Party. He said the civilian government would “attempt to legislate the required laws so that the people have the right to defend themselves” against the military crackdown.
The Monywa township declared it had formed its own local government and police force.
In Yangon, hundreds of people demonstrated in different parts of the city after putting up barricades of barbed wire and sandbags to block the advance of security forces.
In one area, people staged a sit-in protest under sheets of tarpaulin rigged up to protect them from the harsh midday sun. “We need justice,” they chanted.
At least 13 people were killed on Saturday, one of the bloodiest days since the Feb 1 coup, witnesses and domestic media said.
“They are acting like they are in a war zone, with unarmed people,” said an activist in the city of Mandalay, Myat Thu.
A spokesman for the junta did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment. Junta-run media MRTV’s evening news broadcast on Saturday labelled the protesters “criminals” but did not elaborate.