The blasts have shaken Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, as protesters marched for democracy and candlelight vigils, challenging a brutal military leadership that has held power for three bloody months.
The country has been in conflict since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, ending Myanmar’s abrupt short-lived experiment with democracy.
The seizure of power triggered a huge revolt, which the authorities have tried to quell with deadly force and live ammunition.
As Myanmar entered its fourth month under military rule on Saturday, protesters at the Yangon Mall, an epicenter of unrest with a strong security presence, staged lightning demonstrations, marching quickly through the streets to avoid clashes with police and the soldiers.
The rapid pace of the protests is “so that people have time to disappear when security forces come, they will either die or be arrested,” said student activist Min Han Htet.
Candle protests were also held on Saturday afternoon, according to social media posts on Sunday morning.
In Yangon’s Insein Township, a bomb exploded Saturday around 10am (3:30 GMT) near a local school, a resident said he was nearby.
“Some security forces came to check the area of the explosion, but I only looked from home because I was worried that I would be arrested,” he told AFP.
In the afternoon, two more explosions erupted in Yankee, further south, according to residents of the lush residential township.
“I thought it was thunder,” a resident told AFP news agency, adding that the blasts left security forces nervous.
State-run nightly news said a woman was injured in the Yankee blasts, blaming the “instigators.”
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings that are occurring with increasing frequency in Yangon.
Residents of Mandalay held an anti-regime rally on Saturday, which raised a three-fingered salute and demanded the release of prisoners detained by the board. #WhatsHappeninglnMyanmar pic.twitter.com/NUAEtmhFYw
– Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) May 1, 2021
“They made people live in fear”
The former capital has been completely transformed since the military took power on February 1, with barricades erected at key points of protest, patrolled security forces and residents denouncing nightly arrests of alleged dissidents.
“They (the military) have made people live in fear and it’s good to have them around as well,” the Yankee resident said.
He also praised the flash protesters for their ingenuity in evading arrests and crackdowns.
“Any demonstration of defiance without being captured or killed is ideal for resistance.”
Across the country, nearly 760 civilians have died in anti-coup riots, according to a local surveillance group, although the military has recorded a much lower death toll. Thousands were also taken by security forces.
In Yangon, there have been posts on social media by security forces carrying people, including children, from their homes. A Yangon orphanage led by the Christian Salvation Army was also reportedly assaulted, although it was unclear whether the women and teachers at the center were detained.
Al Jazeera was unable to verify the posts independently.
But the democracy movement continues unabated, with protesters gathering in the central city of Monywa on Saturday (a turning point for violence) with placards saying, “Monywa cannot be governed.”
South of Dawei, protesters waved the red flags of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party and carried placards that read, “We want democracy.”
The desired posters of senior general Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the military government, who called him “addicted to power” were also pasted around the city.
He has continually justified the coup as necessary to protect democracy, alleging fraud in the November election that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a defeat.
The relentless violence against protesters has angered some of Myanmar’s countless ethnic armies, many of whom have been fighting the military for decades in border regions.
Several have condemned the military and supported the anti-coup movement, offering refuge to activists fleeing the territory they control.
Clashes between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the main rebel groups, have intensified since the coup.
The KNU has confiscated and razed military sites and the military has responded with repeated air raids into the heart of rebel state Karen, the last of which takes place just after midnight on Saturday.
The target area is next to Mae Hong Son Province in northern Thailand, and displaced residents have fled across the Salween River, which borders the border.
“Myanmar soldiers used a fighter jet to launch an air strike operation, firing two rockets and artillery” around 12:48 a.m. (18:18 GMT Friday), the governor said in a statement by Mae Hong Son, Sithichai Jindaluang.
He added that more than 2,300 Myanmar citizens have crossed into Thailand.
Karen’s local media and aid groups blocked access to the refugees, and authorities cited the extension of COVID-19 as a reason, stopping to check the temperatures of the locals returning home. .
Violence has also spread to Kachin state in northern Myanmar between the Kachin pro-independence army and the army, which launched airstrikes in Momauk municipality on Friday.
According to a humanitarian worker, humanitarian workers said artillery bombardment fell on two small towns on Saturday, saying residents feared fighting was approaching.