Myanmar protesters vow more rallies after military raids on opposition figures
Myanmar anti-coup demonstrators have vowed big turnouts Sunday as the junta regime intensifies its crackdown, following overnight raids in parts of Yangon which targeted officials from Aung San Suu Kyi's political party.
The country has been in chaos since the February 1 coup, which ousted civilian leader Suu Kyi from power and triggered a mass uprising opposing the military junta regime.
Wednesday was the deadliest day so far, with the United Nations saying at least 38 people were gunned down as security forces fired into crowds, shooting some protesters in the head.
The UN rights office also said it has verified at least 54 deaths since the coup -- though the actual number could be far higher -- and more than 1,700 people have been detained.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party confirmed some officials were arrested in overnight raids.
"It's true that in some townships NLD officials were arrested. But we do not know exactly how many persons were taken or arrested," party official Soe Win told AFP.
NLD MP Sithu Maung posted on Facebook that security forces last night were searching the party's information officer U Maung Maung at his house but couldn't find him.
"U Maung Maung's brother was beaten by police and soldiers and his body was held in an upside-down position while he was tortured because there was no one to arrest," the MP said.
State-run media on Sunday warned lawmakers involved in a group -- called the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw which is claiming to be the legitimately elected government of Myanmar -- that they are committing "high treason" and could be sentenced to death or 22 years jail.
The junta has declared group members persona non-grata and says those who communicate with them could face seven years jail.
'Willing to die'
Yangon-based activist Maung Saungkha flagged there were coordinated protests across multiple cities and regional areas on Sunday as part of a two-day general strike.
"We are willing to die for our country," he told AFP.
"This current situation is worse (than the past regime). So do we stay under this condition or do we fight? This time we must fight to win. We believe that fighting together with the young generation will get us the victory."
On Saturday, state-run media announced that if civil servants continued to boycott work, "they will be fired" with immediate effect from March 8. The junta is pushing for banks to reopen Monday.
But demonstrators insist they will continue to defy authorities over the next two days.
Police and soldiers Sunday in the Yangon district of San Chaung were removing makeshifts barricades and using sound bombs and tear gas to disperse protesters.
In Yangon's North Okkalapa township, protesting took on a musical flavour with guitarists and drummers and vocalists wearing Suu Kyi Tshirts singing revolutionary songs at an impromptu concert.
"It's important, brothers and sisters, let us unite in unity," the crowd sang.
While a crowd numbering in the thousands hit the streets in Mandalay -- Myanmar's second biggest city -- chanting: "don't serve the military, get out, get out."
Many sat on roads under umbrellas with signs saying "free our elected leaders".
That city lost another life Saturday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which reported a 21-year-old Ko Naing Min Ko died after being shot in the leg and beaten by security forces the previous day.
The monitoring group also said people connected to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party were responsible for two deaths on Saturday morning in the Magway region - a 17-year-old youth and an NLD party official.
Meanwhile, scores of Myanmar citizens are at the border with India, waiting to join about 50 others who have already crossed the frontier to flee the country's coup turmoil, Indian officials said Saturday.
Myanmar authorities have written to their Indian counterparts requesting eight police who fled this week be sent home.
A total of 48 Myanmar nationals have entered India's northeastern state of Mizoram, a senior officer in the Assam Rifles paramilitary force told AFP.
"At least 85 civilians from Myanmar have been waiting at the international border to enter India," the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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