Sat. Apr 17th, 2021

Police in Myanmar fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in the country’s two largest cities and elsewhere on Friday, as authorities continued their harsh crackdown on opponents of last month’s military coup.

(PHOTO: Protesters flash three-finger salutes during a rally against the February 1 military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. [Reuters])

A German news agency reported the apparent arrest of a Polish freelance journalist, in the latest attempt by the junta to control coverage of the protests.

The use of tear gas and rubber bullets was reported in Yangon and Mandalay, as well as in Mogok, in north-central Myanmar’s gem-mining region, and Twante, a town just west of Yangon. There were reports that live ammunition was used in some areas, but these could not be immediately verified.

In Mandalay, where a protester was killed Thursday, about 500 railway workers marched down a city street to show their opposition to the military government despite the threat of lethal force.

Protesters held huge rallies and marches in Mandalay in the days following the army’s Feb. 1 takeover, but since then have changed tactics, breaking up into smaller groups in response to the increasingly uncompromising actions by security forces, who have repeatedly used live ammunition against crowds.

In Yangon, riot police fired tear gas to break up a protest, and demonstrators quickly sprayed vapor from fire extinguishers as they retreated.

The use of fire extinguishers — common now in protests across Myanmar — is intended to smother the tear gas and also create a vapor screen that makes it harder for police to pursue or shoot demonstrators.

At least 10 people were fatally shot by security forces on Thursday, including six in the town of Myaing in the central Magway region, local press reports and posts on social media said. In many cases, photos of what were said to be the bodies of the dead were posted online.Also Thursday, the independent United Nations human rights expert for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said “credible reports” indicated security forces in the Southeast Asian nation have killed at least 70 people and cited growing evidence of crimes against humanity since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. SOVEREIGNPH

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