Protesters returned to the streets across Myanmar on Saturday, defying a junta-led campaign of fear as regional powers Indonesia and Malaysia condemned the violence deployed by security forces against anti-coup demonstrators.
The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in a February 1 coup, triggering a nationwide uprising as protesters call for a return to democracy.
So far, more than 230 people have been killed in anti-coup unrest, according to a local monitoring group, as security forces have deployed tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds against anti-coup protesters.
But the movement has pushed ahead — albeit in smaller numbers.
Local media showed protesters in gas masks gathering in northern Shan state, while in the southern coastal city of Dawei, motorists hoisted posters of Suu Kyi and signs that said: “end the dictatorship”.
The protesters in Shan state wielded home-made shields that said: “protect unarmed civilians”.
Outside of protests, crackdowns continue on the streets and residential areas across Myanmar, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.
“Casualties and unprovoked shootings are increasing day by day,” it said.
In the central ruby-producing city of Mogok, local media Myanmar Now reported that a neighbourhood’s night guards were shot overnight.
“One died on the spot last night while two others are in critical condition in the hospital,” a rescue team member confirmed to AFP, declining to give more details.
The country’s commercial hub Yangon has emerged as a hotspot for unrest, as security forces armed with guns continue to root out protesters wielding homemade protection gear.
But the resistance movement remains defiant.
“Who says we have to give up because of unequal weapons? We are born for victory,” tweeted prominent activist Ei Thinzar Maung, with the hashtag #SpringRevolution.
Sporadic demonstrations persisted Saturday across the former capital, with a small group marching on a residential area chanting for the military to “Surrender if you do not want life in prison!”
Myanmar’s regional neighbours on Friday condemned the escalating violence, with Indonesian President Joko Widodo calling for a high-level regional meeting “to discuss the crisis”.
“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar stop to avoid more victims,” he said.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin echoed the need for an “emergency” summit among the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“I am appalled by the persistent use of lethal violence against unarmed civilians… The use of live ammunition against peaceful protests is unacceptable,” he said in a statement Friday.
“This deplorable situation must stop immediately.”
International condemnation by the United States, former colonial power Britain and the United Nations has so far failed to slow the violence.
European Union foreign ministers are set to approve sanctions on Monday against 11 junta officials, according to EU diplomats.
Since the military took over in February, the junta has sunk Myanmar further into isolation, throttling mobile data this week that left citizens without wifi capabilities in an information blackout.
It has also instated a nightly internet shutdown for more than a month.
Security forces have also gone after the country’s press corps, raiding multiple newsrooms and arresting more than 30 since the coup, according to AAPP.
A Burmese journalist, Aung Thura, with BBC’s Myanmar language service was taken away by men on Friday in the capital Naypyidaw while reporting outside a court.
“The British Embassy… shares the BBC’s concerns about missing BBC Burmese journalist Aung Thura,” tweeted the embassy on Friday.
“We echo the call for the authorities to help confirm his location and that he is safe.”
Local journalist Than Htike Aung for Mizzima — which had its broadcasting licence revoked earlier this month — was “arrested” as well, reported Mizzima’s Facebook page.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday once again condemned as “unacceptable” the killing of demonstrators and “arbitrary arrests in Myanmar, including of journalists”.
“The continuing brutal violence by the military in Myanmar must stop,” he said in a tweet.