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Burma city's toll in crackdown put at 82

by The Associated Press | April 11, 2021 at 4:44 a.m.
Demonstrators flash the three-fingered symbol of resistance Saturday as they march in Rangoon, Burma. (AP)

RANGOON -- At least 82 people were killed in a single day in a crackdown by Burma security forces on pro-democracy protesters, according to reports Saturday from independent local media and an organization that keeps track of casualties since the military's February seizure of power.

Friday's death toll in Bago was the biggest one-day total for one city since March 14, when just more than 100 people were killed in Rangoon, the country's biggest city. Bago is about 60 miles northeast of Rangoon. The Associated Press is unable to independently verify the number of deaths.

The death toll of 82 was a preliminary one compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which issues daily counts of casualties and arrests from the crackdown in the aftermath of the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Their tallies are widely accepted as highly credible because cases are not added to their totals until they have been confirmed, with the details published on their website.

In its Saturday report, the group said it expected the number of dead in Bago to rise as more cases were verified.

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The online news site Myanmar Now also reported that 82 people had been killed, citing an unnamed source involved with charity rescue work. Myanmar Now and other local media said the bodies had been collected by the military and dumped on the grounds of a Buddhist pagoda.

​​​​​Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that ruling military authorities adopted in 1989. Opposition leader Suu Kyi and other regime opponents have refused to adopt the name change, as have the U.S. and Britain.

At least 701 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces since the army's takeover, according to the assistance association.

The attack on Bago was the third in the past week involving the use of force to try to crush the persistent opposition to the ruling junta.

Attacks were launched Wednesday on hardcore opponents of military rule who had set up strongholds in the towns of Kalay and Taze in the country's north. In both places, at least 11 people -- possibly including some bystanders -- were reported killed.

The security forces were accused of using heavy weapons in their attacks, including rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, though such allegations could not be independently confirmed. Photos posted on social media from Bago appeared to show fragments of mortar shells.

Most protests in cities and town around the country are carried out by nonviolent demonstrators who consider themselves part of a civil disobedience movement.

But as the police and military escalated the use of lethal force, a hardcore faction of protesters armed themselves with homemade weapons such as firebombs in the name of self-defense. In Kalay, activists dubbed themselves a "civil army," and some equipped themselves with rudimentary hunting rifles that are traditional in the remote area.

A Saturday report by Myanmar Now said residents of Tamu, a town in the same region as Kalay, used hunting rifles Saturday to ambush a military convoy and claimed to have killed three soldiers.

The U.N. special envoy for Burma, Christine Schraner Burgener, arrived Friday in the Thai capital Bangkok on a regional mission to try to resolve the crisis. She intends to sound out several Southeast Asian governments for their ideas but has been denied permission to visit Burma.

A police vehicle is parked at a road in South Okkalapa township to block anti-coup protesters' gathering in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, April 9, 2021. An information blackout under Myanmar's military junta worsened Thursday as fiber broadband service, the last legal way for ordinary people to access the internet, became intermittently inaccessible on several networks. (AP Photo)
A police vehicle is parked at a road in South Okkalapa township to block anti-coup protesters' gathering in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, April 9, 2021. An information blackout under Myanmar's military junta worsened Thursday as fiber broadband service, the last legal way for ordinary people to access the internet, became intermittently inaccessible on several networks. (AP Photo)
Protesters chant slogans and march in the street of Myaynigone township during the anti-coup demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, April 9, 2021. An information blackout under Myanmar's military junta worsened Thursday as fiber broadband service, the last legal way for ordinary people to access the internet, became intermittently inaccessible on several networks. (AP Photo)
Protesters chant slogans and march in the street of Myaynigone township during the anti-coup demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, April 9, 2021. An information blackout under Myanmar's military junta worsened Thursday as fiber broadband service, the last legal way for ordinary people to access the internet, became intermittently inaccessible on several networks. (AP Photo)
Children flash the three-fingered symbol of resistance as they join an anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, April 10, 2021. Security forces in Myanmar cracked down heavily again on anti-coup protesters Friday even as the military downplayed reports of state violence.(AP Photo)
Children flash the three-fingered symbol of resistance as they join an anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, April 10, 2021. Security forces in Myanmar cracked down heavily again on anti-coup protesters Friday even as the military downplayed reports of state violence.(AP Photo)
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