Protesters flood streets in Myanmar after deaths over weekend, Government & Economy - THE BUSINESS TIMES

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Protesters flood streets in Myanmar after deaths over weekend

Yangon

MYANMAR'S anti-coup protesters swarmed streets across the country in what may be the largest turnout since the Feb 1 coup, after two demonstrators were shot dead over the weekend.

On Monday afternoon, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched throughout Yangon, while similar numbers were seen demonstrating in Mandalay, the location of the weekend's shooting, after gathering there in the morning.

Earlier in the day, video footage posted by local media showed large demonstrations in the capital of Naypyidaw and the south-western city of Pathein.

The European Council on Monday condemned the military coup, calling for an immediate end to the state of emergency and "the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament".

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"The EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup," the bloc said in a statement.

About 50 protesters were arrested by police in the Pyinmana township of Naypyidaw, local media Eleven reported on Monday. Many shops and businesses closed in solidarity with protesters, including the nation's largest retailer, City Mart.

Concerns have risen in recent days about the banking system as many private branches have remained closed and automated teller machines are running out of cash amid surging demand.

"We expect to see the biggest crowd of people across the country on Monday," said Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo, a lower house lawmaker representing the National League for Democracy, which had won a November election in a landslide before the military rejected the results. "We need to keep fighting against the brutal military."

Myanmar has seen nation-wide demonstrations since the military seized control of the country, with protesters ignoring a ban on public gatherings.

A 20-year old student who was shot in the country's capital of Naypidaw was the first fatality last week. Two men were killed and more than 20 people injured on Saturday as authorities fired shots to disperse demonstrators in Mandalay.

Singapore on Saturday called the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians "inexcusable", while Germany condemned the violence and said the military should pave the way for a return to the democratic process.

The United Nations' country team in Myanmar expressed "profound concern" over the violence, saying in a statement that it "must stop and the fundamental right to peaceful assembly must be respected".

Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday that authorities were "exercising utmost restraint through minimum use of force" against what it called "unlawful demonstrations, incitements of unrest and violence".

"The ministry views that some statements and remarks made by some embassies in Yangon and foreign countries are tantamount to flagrant interference in internal affairs of Myanmar," it said.

The junta separately said that security forces "had to fire back" after protesters "turned to riots and anarchy". It also warned that "public health services have ceased to an extent" as healthcare workers join the Civil Disobedience Movement, and expressed concern that protesters may inhibit more than 900,000 pensioners from accessing funds at banks.

Some automatic teller machines have run out of cash within the first few hours of each day as citizens rush to get a hold of money, according to Pe Myint, a senior consultant at Co-operative Bank.

To add to this, bad traffic has prevented bank employees from going to their offices and changes in the senior management at the central bank may also complicate matters, he said. "It is still unlikely to see the reopening of all private banks before the end of February."

The youth-led movement has mobilised supporters peacefully in major cities with three main demands: the release of civilian leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, recognition of the 2020 election results that showed her party won and a withdrawal of the military from politics.

The military has ordered internet blackouts in recent nights as it tightens its grip on power.

Facebook has pushed back against the coup, with Reuters reporting that the company removed the military's main social media page for violations of community standards prohibiting the incitement of violence and coordinating harm. BLOOMBERG

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