Protests and violence mark the anniversary of Myanmar's army rule

BANGKOK, (AP) -- On Tuesday, Myanmar's army took power for the first time. Protests and sporadic violence in the country reaffirmed international concern about the ongoing struggle to hold on to power.

Protests and violence mark the anniversary of Myanmar's army rule

Social media photos and videos showed that streets were cleared in Myanmar's largest city Yangon. Other towns saw people staying home, while businesses closed their doors as a protest to the army.

There was also violence, as the country is facing an insurgency that U.N. experts call a civil war.

Local media reported that at least two people were killed and many more injured in an explosion at a promilitary rally held in a town near the border with Thailand. The exact cause of the explosion was not immediately known.

On February 1, 2021, the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. After a huge victory in the November elections last year, the National League for Democracy was set to start a second term.

After the army took over, there were widespread non-violent protests. However, armed resistance emerged after the protests were stopped with lethal force. The government was unable to suppress the protests, despite the fact that more than 1,500 civilians were killed.

International attention has been drawn to the anniversary, particularly from the United States and Western countries that were critical of the military coup.

In a statement, President Joe Biden called on the military to release Suu Kyi and all other detainees and to return Myanmar to democracy.

Monday's new sanctions were imposed by the United States against Myanmar officials. These are in addition to previous ones that have been imposed on top military officers. These sanctions freeze assets held in U.S. jurisdictions by the listed officials and prohibit Americans from doing business. Similar measures were announced by Canada and Britain.

Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary General, released a statement highlighting "an intensification of violence" and "humanitarian crisis" which required an urgent response.

Several pro-democracy rallies were organized before the nationwide strike began in the early hours of the morning when security forces are less likely be on the streets. Protesters, including Buddhist monks, carried banners and chanted antimilitary slogans in Yangon and Mandalay.

Many raised three fingers as a resistance salute, similar to the one used by pro-democracy protestors in neighboring Thailand.

Occupation fighters claimed that they carried out bombings in 11 Yangon neighborhoods Tuesday, targeting a police station as well as the homes of military personnel. A Facebook message by the Yangon Region Military Command did not mention any casualties.

Opposition militants are known for their daily hit-and-run guerrilla attacks. However, the military engages in more extensive assaults which often result in civilian casualties.

According to local media outlet The 74 Media in Kachin, a bombing at a station of police led to officers shooting on a car that fled the scene. A stray bullet also killed a nearby seven-year old boy.

Although authorities threatened shopkeepers to be arrested if they shut down for the strike, those who were open on Tuesday seemed to have very few customers.

The government has been warning people in state media since last week that they could be imprisoned or have their property confiscated if they take part in the strike.

According to reports in Myanma Alinn Daily, dozens of business owners had previously announced that they would close their businesses.

City administrators in Yangon and Mandalay also planned special events to distract from strikes this week. These included a cycling competition. According to documents leaked on social media, Yangon municipal workers were told to attend the event.

Many pro-military demonstrations were also held, which are widely believed to be organized by authorities.

According to the Tachileik News Agency, 2 people were killed and 37 injured in an explosion at a progovernment rally in Tachileik (a border town in Shan State in eastern Myanmar), where six of them are critically wounded.

The reporter declined to identify himself because of political sensitivity. He told The Associated Press via text that many of the marchers were either ex-soldiers, or villagers who had been brought in for the demonstration.

The blast was reported by other news outlets, but no one has claimed responsibility.

Leaders of the two opposing parties posted speeches online early in the morning to commemorate the anniversary of the army’s takeover.

Duwa Lashi la, the acting president of the opposition's National Unity Government (NUG), promised that his group would continue with the people's "revolution against military rule". Established by elected lawmakers, the NUG considers itself to be the legitimate administrative body of the country and has gained the loyalty many citizens. It has been called a terrorist organization by the military.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was the leader of the military-installed government and gave an hour-long speech in which he promised to work towards a "genuine, disciplined, multiparty democratic system".

Myanmar's military claimed it seized power due to widespread voter fraud in 2020 polls -- an allegation independent election observers have not seen any serious evidence for.

Thomas Andrews, U.N. Special Reporteur on the Myanmar situation, stated that "the international community must take strong and meaningful steps to reduce the junta’s access to weapons. funds. legitimacy."

He said that the violence had escalated in recent months, adding that Myanmar's military has carried out "mass murders, attacks on hospitals, humanitarian targets, as well as the bombing and burning villages."

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