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Anti-coup protesters rally in Myanmar amid reports of deadly crackdown

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup on "Global Myanmar Spring Revolution Day" in Hpakant in Myanmar's Kachin state on May 2, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands have flocked to the streets in Myanmar to oppose the military rule more than three months after a coup plunged the Southeast Asian country into turmoil amid heavy-handed crackdown on protests.

The protests on Sunday gathered people in their thousands in several cities and towns in Myanmar, including the commercial hub of Yangon, the second city of Mandalay, the central town of Kale and Dawei in the south.

There have been unconfirmed reports of five people killed in the latest bout of crackdown, with the Irrawaddy news website posting a photograph of a security officer in plain clothes taking aim with a rifle in Mandalay.

The anti-coup demonstrations were coordinated with expatriate communities around the world to mark what organizers called “the global Myanmar spring revolution.”

“Shake the world with the voice of Myanmar people's unity,” organizers said in a statement.

The protests on Sunday came as the state-run broadcaster in its main news bulletin gave details of at least 11 explosions over the past 36 hours, most in the main city of Yangon.

The broadcaster reported some damage but no casualties, with no group or individual claiming responsibility for the blasts.

Myanmar has been rocked by protests since the February 1 coup and the subsequent death of hundreds of people at the hands of security forces after the military ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi and imprisoned her and other political leaders.

Since then, waves of protests have been flowing, with the crowds demanding the release of Suu Kyi and other detained figures, and the return of civilian rule.

In addition to the daily protests, strikes by workers in many sectors have brought the economy to a standstill in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Development Program warned last week that the impact of the pandemic and the political crisis could see as many as 25 million Myanmar people slide into poverty by 2022.

Moreover, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet accused the junta in a recent statement of committing crimes against humanity, warning that the situation in the country seemed to be heading toward a “full-blown” conflict.

At least 759 civilians have been killed and more than 3,300 people have been arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.           

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