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More rallies in Myanmar despite junta death threats

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Protesters hold signs calling for the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Sunday. AFP

More rallies in Myanmar despite junta death threats

The Myanmar junta warned anti-coup protesters that they could die but thousands of people took to the streets again on February 22, with tensions soaring over the deaths of four demonstrators.

Much of Myanmar has been in uproar over the generals ousting and detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi three weeks ago.

Massive street demonstrations have taken place across the country, while a civil disobedience campaign has choked many government operations as well as businesses.

“Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” said a statement on state-run broadcaster Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) on February 21.

The statement, read out in Burmese with text of the English version on the screen, cautioned protesters against inciting “riot and anarchy”.

The warning followed the deadliest weekend since the coup – two people were killed when security forces fired at protesters in the city of Mandalay, and a third man was shot dead in Yangon.

A young woman also died on February 19 after being shot in the head at a protest and spending almost a fortnight on life support.

Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, whose funeral was held on February 21, was the first confirmed fatality of the protests, and she has emerged as a potent symbol of the anti-junta movement.

UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was deeply concerned by the junta’s new threat.

He tweeted: “Warning to the junta: Unlike 1988, actions by security forces are being recorded & you will be held accountable.”

But protesters appeared undeterred on February 22, with thousands gathering in two neighbourhoods of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and commercial hub.

Kyaw Kyaw, a 23-year-old university student said: “We came out today to join in the protest, to fight until we win.

“We are worried about the crackdown, but we will move forward. We are so angry.”

In the Bahan township area, demonstrators sat on a stretch of road and created a sea of yellow and red banners in support of Suu Kyi.

Yangon residents woke up to a heavy security presence, including police and military trucks on the roads and an embassy district barricaded.

Markets and shops were expected to remain closed in solidarity with the protesters.

There were also demonstrations in the cities of Myitkyina and Dawei.

Protesters also took to streets of Naypidaw, the capital, on motorbikes.

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