At least eight people have been killed in Myanmar after security forces opened fire on some of the largest protests against the military government in recent days, three months after a coup plunged the country into political turmoil.
Thousands of people, in towns and cities across the country, joined the protests on Sunday calling for the “World Spring Revolution in Myanmar.” Concentrations in support of the coup protests also took place outside Myanmar, as Pope Francis called for peace.
“Shake the world with the voice of the unity of the people of Myanmar,” organizers said in a statement.
Two people were shot dead in Mandalay, the second largest city in the country, according to the Mizzima news agency.
The news site Irrawaddy previously posted a photograph of a man who he said was a plainclothes security officer taking aim with a rifle at Mandalay.
Three people died in the central city of Wetlet, according to the Myanmar Now news agency, and two died in different cities in the northeastern state of Shan, two media outlets reported. One person was also killed in the jade mining town north of Hpakant, the Kachin news group reported.
The Reuters news agency was unable to verify the reports and a ruling government spokesman did not respond to calls requesting comments.
The military took power in the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) in a coup on February 1, unleashed a movement of civil disobedience of strikes and mass protests .
Long-running conflicts with ethnic armed groups in the northern and eastern border areas have also intensified and displaced tens of thousands of civilians, according to United Nations estimates.
The military has responded to the protests with arrests and lethal force and has ignored calls from neighboring countries and the UN to end the violence.
In Yangon, the youths gathered on the corner of a street before quickly marching through the streets in flash mobs, dispersing shortly afterwards to avoid a clash with authorities.
“Bringing down the military dictatorship is our cause!” they sang, making a three-finger salute in show of endurance.
To the east of Shan East, young people carried a banner that said, “We can’t govern ourselves at all.”
Bomb explosions they were also reported Sunday at different points in Yangon. The explosions are occurring with increasing frequency in the old capital and the authorities have blamed the “instigators”.
There have been no claims of responsibility for the blasts.
The Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP), which monitors the situation, says security forces have killed at least 765 protesters since the coup, while some 4,609 people have been arrested.
The army, which has called the AAPP an illegal organization, has acknowledged that 258 protesters have been killed, along with 17 police and seven soldiers.
The generals ruled Myanmar for about 50 years until they began an interim reform process ten years ago.
– Yasmin Ullah (@YasminJUllah) May 3, 2021
Today I was not able to personally attend the London protest, but I was there in spirit, because the amazing artist @ohn_mar_win I took my words! 🥺❤️# GMSR22222 #GlobalMMSpringRevolution #GlobalMyanmarAlliance#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #London https://t.co/7fkUruUHiP pic.twitter.com/nbWXvpDOG2
– MiMi Aye (@meemalee) May 2, 2021
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing has said the coup was necessary due to alleged fraud in last November’s election, which the NLD won in stages. The election commission has said it has found no evidence of wrongdoing.
The ongoing violence in Myanmar has raised alarm among the international community.
Rallies in support of the anti-coup movement were held in Taipei cities in Vancouver and London where Hong Kong exiled politician Nathan Law gave his support to the protesters.
“We need to mobilize our global system to punish dictators and prevent them from killing people,” he said. “We need a government that serves the people, instead of terrorizing them. We need leaders to lead us, not to ask us to bow to them. ”
Meanwhile, in Rome, Pope Francis prayed on Sunday during Mass in St. Peter’s Square that Myanmar could “walk the path of reunion, reconciliation and peace.”