Myanmar’s pro-democracy protesters return after “the bloodiest day” since the coup

Defiant anti-coup protesters returned to cities and towns across Myanmar on Thursday after dozens of people were killed on the deadliest day of the junta’s actions, with global powers condemning the “brutal violence”.

At least 38 people died on Wednesday, according to the UN, when online images streamed out of Myanmar showing security forces firing into crowds and blood-covered bodies of protesters with bullet wounds to the head.

Myanmar’s military staged its coup on February 1, ending a decade-long experiment with democracy and sparking a mass uprising that the junta has increasingly tried to break with deadly force.

Wednesday’s violence left the United States “terrified and discouraged,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“We urge all countries to speak with one voice to condemn the brutal violence of the Burmese military against its own people,” he said, referring to the country by its former name.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for an “immediate end to the repression in Myanmar”.

More than 50 people have been killed since the military takeover, UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told reporters.

On Thursday, protesters took to the streets again in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s two largest cities, as well as other cities that have been hotspots for unrest.

In recent days, Yangon’s San Chaung township has fallen into chaos as security forces rallied to prevent anti-coup protesters from gathering.

A residential area known for its cafes, restaurants and bars, its streets were transformed on Thursday with barricades built of sandbags, decks, bricks and barbed wire.

Passers-by went for pictures of junata leader Min Aung Hlaing, who protesters kissed on the ground to slowly chase security forces who will avoid stepping on the portraits.

“Yesterday was terrible … it was devastating to learn the military in Myanmar has never changed since 1962,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told AFP.

But “resistance is now our duty,” she said, promising to protest every day.

“Fear, fake news”

The junta has tried to hide its actions from the rest of the world, stifling the internet and banning Facebook – the most popular social media platform.

Six journalists were also arrested over the weekend and charged under a law prohibiting “causing fear, spreading false news or directly or indirectly agitating a government employee,” according to their lawyer Tin Zar Oo.

Among them was Associated Press photographer Thein Zaw, who was arrested on Saturday when he covered a coup against Yangon. Video emerged on Wednesday that he was being held in a chokehold by the police when he was arrested.

But protesters, civilian journalists and some media groups have continued to send pictures from Myanmar, and on Thursday the funeral of a 19-year-old woman who was killed in Mandalay was streamed live on Facebook.

The victim, Kyal Sin, was wearing a t-shirt marked “Everything will be OK” with large letters on the front when she was shot in the head.

Security forces have arrested nearly 1,500 people since the start of the coup, 1,200 of whom are still being held, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The group said it had documented more than 50 deaths, as it reported on teens and people in their 20s who had been shot in the head and chest.

One of the first people to be imprisoned at the beginning of the coup was Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the civilian government and a heroine for most of Myanmar to lead the resistance against the former dictatorship.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won the election in November last year with a landslide, a result that set the stage for the military’s influence to be diluted.

The junta justified its coup by making unfounded allegations that Suu Kyi’s party made the choice.

Suu Kyi, 75, is reportedly being held in Naypyidaw, the isolated capital that the military built during its decades-long dictatorship.

(AFP)