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Myanmar police crack down on protests; two dead

MYANMAR police shot and killed two protesters on Sunday and wounded several as they cracked down in a bid to end weeks of demonstrations against a Feb. 1 military coup, a doctor and a politician said.

Police opened fire in the town of Dawei, killing one and wounding several, politician Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters from the southern town. The Dawei Watch media outlet also said at least one person was killed and more than a dozen wounded.

Police also fired in the main city of Yangon and one man brought to a hospital with a bullet wound in the chest had died, said a doctor at the hospital who asked not to be identified. The Mizzima media outlet also reported that death.

Police and the spokesman for the ruling military council did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Myanmar has been in chaos for a month since the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

The coup, which stalled Myanmar’s progress toward democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.

In Yangon, several people, some bleeding heavily, were helped away from protests, images posted earlier by media showed.

It was not clear how they were hurt, but media reported live fire. The Myanmar Now media group said people had been “gunned down” but did not elaborate.

Police also threw stun grenades, used tear gas and fired into the air, witnesses said.

Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities have been using minimal force to deal with the protests.

Nevertheless, at least five protesters have died in the turmoil. The army said a policeman has been killed.

The crackdown appears to indicate a determination by the military to impose its authority in the face of widespread defiance, not just on the streets but more broadly in areas such as the civil service, municipal administration, the education and health sectors and media.

Police were out early on Sunday, taking positions at main protest sites in Yangon as protesters, many clad in protective gear, began to congregate, witnesses said.

They moved swiftly to break up crowds.

“Police got out of their cars and started throwing stun grenades without warning,” said Hayman May Hninsi, who was with a group of fellow teachers in Yangon. They fled to nearby buildings. “Some teachers got hurt running.”

Doctors and students in white lab coats fled as police threw stun grenades outside a medical school elsewhere in the city, posted video showed.

Police in the second city, Mandalay, fired guns into the air, trapping protesting medical staff in a city hospital, a doctor there said by telephone.

Saturday brought disturbances in towns and cities nationwide as police began their bid to crush the protests with tear gas, stun grenades and by shooting into the air.

State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested on Saturday. It said police had given warnings before using stun grenades to disperse people. — Reuters

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