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Myanmar Junta Extends Martial Law in Yangon After Dozens of Anti-Coup Protesters Killed

Protesters run from tear gas fired by security forces, as some demonstrators also let off fire extinguishers, next to a barricade set up during the demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay, March 15, 2021.
Protesters run from tear gas fired by security forces, as some demonstrators also let off fire extinguishers, next to a barricade set up during the demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay, March 15, 2021.

Authorities in Myanmar extended martial law in more areas of the main city of Yangon Monday amid reports of more killings of protesters at the hands of security forces.

State-run MRTV news channel announced that the districts of North Dagon, South Dagon, Dagon Seikkan and North Okkalapa are under martial law, a day after security forces killed at least 40 people across Myanmar. Most of the killings took place in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya, making it the bloodiest day of demonstrations against the junta that seized power in a February 1 coup.

Authorities imposed martial law on Hlaingthaya, a suburb of Myanmar’s main city, after several Chinese-owned factories were set on fire and about 2,000 people had stopped fire engines from reaching them, according to Reuters quoting army-run Myawaddy television. China is seen as supportive of the Myanmar junta.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to Sunday's attack on the factories during a regular news briefing Monday, “The burning and looting of Chinese companies is abhorrent. We hope the Myanmar side will take concrete measures to protect the safety of Chinese citizens in Myanmar.”

The spokesman also said, “The top priority is to prevent the occurrence of new bloody conflicts and to achieve an easing of the situation as soon as possible."

Various reports quoting the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said more than 30 people were killed Sunday in Hlaingthaya, up from the initial 22 fatalities reported by the group.

Sixteen more protesters were killed in other cities and townships, the AAPP said, as well as one police officer. [[ ]] The previous deadliest day was March 3, when 38 deaths were reported across Myanmar.

Two people were killed in protests in Myingyan, while three people were killed there and two in Aunglan town, according to Reuters which quoted the Myanmar Now media outlet.

On Monday the AAPP was quoted as saying the nationwide death toll for Sunday had reached 44.

As the violence continued to rage across Myanmar Monday, a scheduled court hearing in the capital Napyitaw for deposed de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi via videoconference was postponed because internet service had been blocked, according to her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw.

Suu Kyi has been detained since the February 1 coup and is facing five criminal charges, including accepting $600,000 in illegal payments plus gold bars while in office. She is also charged with illegally possessing six unregistered walkie-talkie radios, operating communications equipment without a license, violating COVID-19 protocols by holding public gatherings and attempting to incite public unrest.

The AAAP says security forces have killed at least 126 people in the seven weeks since the coup, not including the latest fatality reports since Sunday, and detained more than 2,150 as of Saturday, with more than 300 released so far.

Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N. special envoy of the secretary-general on Myanmar, Sunday strongly condemned the continuing bloodshed.

“The international community, including regional actors, must come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations,” Burgener said in a statement.

On Saturday, the acting head of the country’s parallel civilian government, who was appointed by deposed legislators after the military coup, promised a “revolution” to oust the junta.

Mahn Win Khaing, who is in hiding along with most other top NLD (National League for Democracy, a ruling political party in Myanmar since 2015 until the 2021 coup) officials, addressed the public for the first time, announcing on Facebook that the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or CRPH, plans to establish a federal democracy.

CRPH is formed by NLD MPs who escaped arrest and are elected members of the ousted parliament on February 5.

Mahn Win Khaing told supporters the CRPH would try to “legislate the required laws so that the people have the right to defend themselves.” He added, “This revolution is the chance we can put our efforts together.”

The military government did not immediately respond to Mahn Win Khaing’s remarks, but it has declared the CRPH illegal.

The junta has called the CRPH a terrorist organization and said anyone involved with it could face treason charges, which are punishable by death, the military government said.

Military officials have claimed widespread fraud in last November’s general election, which the NLD won in a landslide, as justification for the takeover. The fraud allegations have been denied by Myanmar’s electoral commission.