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Burma police step up presence

Arrests, use of force increase against anti-coup protesters by The Associated Press | February 28, 2021 at 5:18 a.m.
Police stand in formation blocking a main road in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. (AP Photo)

RANGOON, Burma -- Police in Burma escalated their crackdown on demonstrators against this month's military takeover, deploying early and in force on Saturday as protesters sought to assemble in the country's two biggest cities and elsewhere.

Security forces in some areas appeared to become more aggressive in using force and making arrests, utilizing more plainclothes officers than had previously revealed themselves. Photos posted on social media showed that residents resisted by erecting makeshift street barricades to try to hinder the advance of the police.

Burma's crisis took a turn on the international stage at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday when the country's U.N. ambassador declared his loyalty to the ousted civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and called on the world to pressure the military to cede power.

There were arrests Saturday in Burma's two biggest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, where demonstrators have been hitting the streets daily to peacefully demand the restoration of the government of Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide election victory in November. Police have increasingly been enforcing an order by the junta banning gatherings of five or more people.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RteT2Lm42FU]

Many other cities and towns have also hosted large protests against the Feb. 1 coup.

Police in Dawei, in the southeast, and Monywa, 85 miles northwest of Mandalay, used force against protesters. Both cities, with populations of less then 200,000 each, have been seeing large demonstrations.

Social media carried unconfirmed reports of a protester shot dead in Monywa. The reports could not immediately be independently confirmed but appeared credible, with both photos and identification of the victim, though later accounts said the woman had not died. The reports from Monywa also said dozens of people were arrested.

The military takeover reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi's party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of her government.

Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that military authorities adopted in 1989. Some nations, such as the United States and Britain, have refused to adopt the name change.

At the General Assembly in New York, Burma's U.N. ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, declared in a speech to fellow delegates that he represented Suu Kyi's "civilian government elected by the people" and supported the fight against military rule.

MRTV, a Burma state-run television channel, broadcast an announcement Saturday from the Foreign Ministry that Kyaw Moe Tun has been dismissed from his post because he had abused his power and misbehaved by failing to follow the instructions of the government and betraying it.

Kyaw Moe Tun had urged all countries to issue public statements strongly condemning the coup and to refuse to recognize the military regime. He also called for stronger international measures to stop violence by security forces against peaceful demonstrators.

He drew applause from many diplomats in the 193-nation global body, as well as effusive praise from other Burmese on social media, who described him as a hero. The ambassador flashed a three-finger salute that has been adopted by the civil disobedience movement at the end of his speech in which he addressed people in Burma.

According to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, as of Friday, 771 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced at one point in relation to the coup, and 689 were being detained or sought for arrest.

The junta said it took power because last year's polls were marred by irregularities. The election commission before the military seized power had refuted the allegation of widespread fraud. The junta dismissed the old commission's members and appointed new ones, who on Friday annulled the election results.

Information for this article was contributed by Edith Lederer of The Associated Press

Buddhist monks lead an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks lead an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks display placards during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks display placards during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
In this image taken from video by UNTV, Myanmar Ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun flashes the three-fingered salute, a gesture of defiance done by anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, at the end of his speech before the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations Friday, Feb. 27 , 2021. Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador strongly opposed the military coup in his country and appealed for the “strongest possible action from the international community” to immediately restore democracy in a dramatic speech to the U.N. General Assembly Friday that drew loud applause from many diplomats in the 193-nation global body. (UNTV via AP)
In this image taken from video by UNTV, Myanmar Ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun flashes the three-fingered salute, a gesture of defiance done by anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, at the end of his speech before the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations Friday, Feb. 27 , 2021. Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador strongly opposed the military coup in his country and appealed for the “strongest possible action from the international community” to immediately restore democracy in a dramatic speech to the U.N. General Assembly Friday that drew loud applause from many diplomats in the 193-nation global body. (UNTV via AP)
In this image made from video, anti-coup protesters shout at police in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar police on Saturday moved to clear anti-coup protesters from the streets of the country's biggest city Yangon. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video, anti-coup protesters shout at police in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar police on Saturday moved to clear anti-coup protesters from the streets of the country's biggest city Yangon. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video, anti-coup protesters shout at police in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar police on Saturday moved to clear anti-coup protesters from the streets of the country's biggest city Yangon. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video, anti-coup protesters shout at police in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar police on Saturday moved to clear anti-coup protesters from the streets of the country's biggest city Yangon. (AP Photo)
Police stand in formation blocking a main road in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. (AP Photo)
Police stand in formation blocking a main road in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks lead an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks lead an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks lead an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks lead an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Myanmar security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in the country's second-largest city Mandalay on Friday, injuring at least three people, two of whom were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered a wound on his leg. "CRPH" in the placards stand for "Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw." (AP Photo)
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