Issued on: 16/03/2021 – 04:12

The families of dozens of people killed in clashes between Myanmar security forces and anti-coup protesters held funerals on Tuesday after candle-lit vigils took place overnight in defiance of a curfew.

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Security forces shot dead at least 20 people on Monday in addition to the 74 killed a day earlier, including many in a suburb of Yangon where Chinese-financed factories were torched, according to advocacy group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

On Tuesday, a crematorium in Yangon reported 31 funerals, a mourner at one of the ceremonies said.

Hundreds of young mourners spilled out onto the street at the funeral of medical student Khant Nyar Hein who was killed in Yangon on Sunday, the bloodiest day of the protests.

“Let them kill me right now, let them kill me instead of my son because I can’t take it any more,” the student’s mother was seen saying in a video clip posted on Facebook.

Mourners chanted: “Our revolution must prevail.”

Some families told media the security forces had seized the bodies of loved ones but they would still hold a funeral.

Supporters of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi have shown no signs of backing down in the face of escalating violence, with Sunday the bloodiest day since a military coup on Feb. 1.

At least 184 people have been killed by the security forces in the weeks of protests, the AAPP said, with the toll rising on Tuesday as one protester was shot dead in the central town of Kawlin, a resident there said.

People held up pictures of Suu Kyi and called for an end to the repression during a small protest in the southern town of Dawei on Tuesday, the Dawei Watch media outlet reported. There was no report of violence.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was appalled by the escalating violence “at the hands of the country’s military” and called on the international community to help end the repression, his spokesman said.

A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment and Reuters could not independently confirm all the casualties.

Martial law 

Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said martial law had been imposed in parts of Yangon, the country’s commercial hub.

The martial law announcement stated that military commanders in Yangon would take over administration of districts, including the courts, MRTV said.

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in a Nov. 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election, but has not set a date.

The military has ruled Myanmar for most of the years since independence from Britain in 1948, and cracked down hard on previous uprisings before agreeing to the latest attempt at a transition to democracy, now derailed.

Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup and faces various charges, including illegally importing walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols. Last week, the junta accused her of accepting illegal payments but she has not yet been charged with that.

Western countries have called for Suu Kyi’s release and condemned the violence and Asian neighbours have offered to help resolve the crisis, but Myanmar has a long record of rejecting outside intervention.

Chinese worries 

Arson attacks on Sunday against 32 Chinese-invested factories in the Hlaingthaya area of Yangon prompted China’s strongest comments yet on the turmoil gripping its neighbour, where many people see Beijing as supportive of the coup.

China’s Global Times newspaper said “vicious attacks” caused damage worth $37 million and injuries to two Chinese employees. Its embassy urged Myanmar’s generals to stop the violence.

Japan’s Fast Retailing Co, known for the UNIQLO brand of casual clothing stores, said on Tuesday that two supplier factories in Myanmar had been set on fire.

Footage on social media circulating on Tuesday showed what media reported to be another blaze from a factory in Hlaingthaya overnight.

Anti-China sentiment has risen since the coup, fuelled by Beijing’s muted criticism of the takeover compared with Western condemnation.

Protest leader Thinzar Shunlei Yi said Myanmar people did not hate their Chinese neighbours though their rulers in Beijing had to understand the outrage felt over China’s perceived support for the junta.

“Chinese government must stop supporting coup council if they actually care about Sino-Myanmar relations and to protect their businesses,” she said on Twitter. 

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)