At least eight people have been killed in Myanmar after security forces opened fire on some of the biggest protests against the military regime in days, three months after a coup plunged the country into turmoil Politics.
Thousands of people in cities across the country joined protests on Sunday to call “Myanmar’s Spring World Revolution”. Rallies in support of anti-coup protests have also taken place outside Myanmar, as Pope Francis called for peace.
“Shake up the world with the voice of the unity of the Burmese people,” the organizers said in a statement.
Two people were shot dead in Mandalay, the country’s second largest city, according to the Mizzima news agency.
The Irrawaddy news site earlier posted a photo of a man he said was an undercover security guard, aiming with a rifle at Mandalay.
Three people were killed in the central town of Wetlet, according to the Myanmar Now news agency, and two were killed in different towns in northeast Shan State, two media reported. One person was also killed in the northern jade mining town of Hpakant, according to the Kachin News Group.
Reuters news agency could not verify the information and a spokesman for the ruling government did not respond to calls for comment.
The military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) in a February 1 coup, sparking a civil disobedience movement of strikes and of mass protests.
Long-standing conflicts with ethnic armed groups in the northern and eastern border areas have also intensified, displacing tens of thousands of civilians, according to UN estimates.
The military responded to the protests with arrests and lethal force, and ignored calls from neighboring countries and the UN to end the violence.
In Yangon, young people gathered on a street corner before quickly marching through the streets in a flash mob – dispersing soon after to avoid a clash with the authorities.
“Bringing down the military dictatorship is our cause!” they chanted, bowing with three fingers as a sign of resistance.
In eastern Shan, young people carried a banner that read, “We cannot be ruled at all.”
Bomb explosions were also reported in different parts of Yangon on Sunday. Explosions have occurred more and more frequently in the former capital and the authorities have blamed them on the “instigators”.
No responsibility was claimed for the explosions.
The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is monitoring the situation, says security forces have killed at least 765 protesters since the coup, while 4,609 people have been arrested.
The army, which called the AAPP an illegal organization, admitted that 258 protesters were killed, along with 17 police officers and seven soldiers.
The generals ruled Myanmar for almost 50 years until they began a process of interim reform 10 years ago.
– Yasmin Ullah (@YasminJUllah) May 3, 2021
I couldn’t attend the London protest in person today, but I was there by spirit, because the amazing artist @ohn_mar_win took my words with it! 🥺❤️# GMSR22222 #GlobalMMSpringRevolution #GlobalMyanmarAlliance#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #London https://t.co/7fkUruUHiP pic.twitter.com/nbWXvpDOG2
– MiMi Aye (@meemalee) May 2, 2021
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing said the coup was necessary due to alleged fraud in last November’s election that the NLD won in a landslide. The electoral commission said it had found no evidence of wrongdoing.
The ongoing violence in Myanmar has sounded alarm bells within the international community.
Rallies in support of the anti-coup movement were held in cities from Taipei to Vancouver and London, where exiled Hong Kong politician Nathan Law gave his support to the protesters.
“We must mobilize our global system to punish dictators and prevent them from killing the people,” he said. “We need a government that serves the people, instead of terrorizing them. We need leaders who lead us, do not ask us to bow down to them.
In Rome, meanwhile, Pope Francis prayed during his mass on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square so that Myanmar could “walk on the path of encounter, reconciliation and peace.”