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Myanmar Police Kill Dozens Of Protesters In Weekend Of Anti-Junta Unrest

Protesters in Yangon, Myanmar, stand near makeshift barricades during demonstrations against the country's military coup.
Protesters in Yangon, Myanmar, stand near makeshift barricades during demonstrations against the country's military coup.

Myanmar has imposed martial law in parts of the country's largest city after a crackdown on peaceful protests opposing last month's military coup resulted in the deaths of dozens of people over the weekend.

State television in Myanmar, also known as Burma, said that martial law had been imposed in several districts in Yangon — North Dagon, South Dagon, Dagon Seikkan and North Okkalapa districts, The Associated Press reported, citing MRTV. Two other districts in the city — Hlaing Thar Yar and neighboring Shwepyitha – were put under martial law on Sunday, the news agency said.

At least 38 people were reportedly killed on Sunday and dozens injured in one of the deadliest days of violence since the military seized power on Feb. 1, according to the AP. Myanmar Now, an independent news source citing hospital sources, put Sunday's death toll at 59 — most in Yangon. Another independent source, The Irrawaddy said the figure was 70. The AP said witnesses and media reported another six people killed on Monday.

In the past six weeks, supporters of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi have taken to the streets in ongoing protests against the new military government. The junta has responded with an ever-harsher crackdown by security forces.

Protesters again marched on Monday in Mandalay, Myingyan and Aunglan, where witnesses told Reuters that police opened fire on them.

"One girl got shot in the head and a boy got shot in the face," an 18-year-old protester in Myingyan told the news agency by telephone. "I'm now hiding."

According to a tally maintained by the , a human rights organization based in neighboring Thailand, as of Sunday, at least 126 people have been killed in six weeks of unrest that followed the ouster of popular leader Aun San Suu Kyi.

Meanwhile, protesters apparently angered at China's unwillingness to condemn the coup, vandalized 32 "Chinese-invested" factories, causing an estimated $37 million in damage, according to Global Times, a newspaper run by China's Communist Party. Two Chinese employees were injured, it said.

Police and firefighters responded to the attacks on factories throughout Yangon, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian , told reporters in Beijing.

China "is very concerned about the impact on the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel," he said.

In an opinion piece published in Global Times, the factory attacks were condemned as "barbaric acts."

"We strongly urge Myanmar side to stop this kind of crimes, punish the perpetrators and compensate Chinese factories for the losses," the editorial read, adding that "The violent attacks were apparently well organized and planned."

On social media, many supporters of Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party pointed out that China's condemnation of the damage to factories did not include an acknowledgement of how many peaceful protesters had been killed in recent weeks. Others suggested that either Myanmar's junta had ordered the fires be set or that the factories' owners set them ablaze to collect insurance money.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.