Explosions rocked Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, as protesters staged democracy blitz and candlelight vigils, defying a brutal military leadership that held power for three bloody months.
The country has been in turmoil since the dismissal of civilian military leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, putting an abrupt end to the fleeting experience of democracy in Myanmar.
The takeover sparked a huge uprising, which authorities attempted to quell with lethal force and live ammunition.
As Myanmar entered its fourth month under military rule on Saturday, protesters at the Yangon Mall – an epicenter of unrest with a strong security presence – staged flash demonstrations, marching quickly through the streets to avoid confrontation with the police and soldiers.
The rapid pace of the protests is “so that people have time to disappear when the security forces come, otherwise they will die or be arrested,” student activist Min Han Htet said.
Candlelight protests also took place on Saturday evening, according to social media posts on Sunday morning.
In Insein County in Yangon, a bomb exploded around 10 a.m. local time (03:30 GMT) on Saturday near a local school, a resident said.
“Some security forces came to check the area of the explosion, but I only observed from a distance from my home because I was afraid to stop,” he told AFP.
In the afternoon, two more explosions occurred in Yanking, further south, according to residents of the leafy residential suburb.
“I thought it was thunder,” a resident told AFP news agency, adding that the explosions had made the security forces nervous.
According to the evening newscast, a woman was injured in the explosions in Yanking, blamed on the “instigators”.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks that are occurring with increasing frequency in Yangon.
– Myanmar now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) May 1, 2021
“ They made people live in fear ”
The old capital has completely transformed since the military took power on February 1, with barricades erected in major protest hot spots, patrolling security forces and residents reporting nightly arrests of dissidents presumed.
“They (the military) made people live with fear and it’s good to have them on their nerves too,” said the Yankin resident.
He also praised the lightning protesters for their ingenuity in avoiding arrests and repression.
“Any display of defiance without being captured or killed is great for the resistance.”
Across the country, nearly 760 civilians have been killed in the anti-coup unrest, according to a local watchdog group, although the military has recorded a much lower death toll. Thousands of people were also reportedly captured by security forces.
In Yangon, there have been social media posts by security forces abducting people, including children, from their homes. An orphanage in Yangon run by the Christian Salvation Army was also reportedly raided, although it was not known whether the women and teachers at the center had been detained.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the posts.
But the democracy movement is not discouraged, with protesters gathered on Saturday in the center of Monywa town – a critical point for violence – carrying signs saying “Monywa cannot be ruled.”
In southern Dawei, protesters waved red flags from the Aung San Suu Kyi National League for Democracy (NLD) party, and carried signs saying, “We want democracy.”
Sought-after posters of the head of the military government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, were also posted around the city, calling him a “power addict.”
He has continually justified the putsch as necessary to protect democracy, alleging a fraud in the November elections that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.
The relentless violence against protesters has angered some of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armies, many of which have been fighting the military for decades in border areas.
Several condemned the army and spoke out in favor of the anti-coup movement, offering shelter to fleeing militants in the territory they control.
Clashes between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the main rebel groups, have intensified since the coup.
The KNU seized and razed military posts, and the military responded with repeated airstrikes in rebel core Karen State – the latest taking place just after midnight on Saturday.
The targeted area is just outside of Mae Hong Son province in northern Thailand, and the displaced residents have fled across the Salween River, which marks the border.
“The Burmese soldiers used a fighter plane to launch an airstrike operation, firing two rockets and artillery” at around 12:48 am (6:18 pm GMT Friday), a statement issued by Mae Hong Son Governor Sithichai Jindaluang said.
He added that more than 2,300 Myanmar nationals have entered Thailand.
Local Karen media and aid groups have been blocked from accessing refugees, with authorities citing the spread of COVID-19 as the reason, stopping to check the temperatures of residents returning home.
Violence also erupted in Kachin State in northern Myanmar between the Kachin Independence Army and the military, which launched airstrikes in Momauk County on Friday.
More artillery shelling hit two small towns on Saturday, according to an aid worker, who said residents feared the fighting was drawing closer.