Myanmar junta attacks demonstrators over formation of shadow govt

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Security forces in Myanmar used violence on Monday against demonstrators who sought to celebrate last week’s formation of a shadow government to serve as an alternative to the military junta that has held power since a February coup.

Myanmar media and posts on social networks said the violence was especially intense in Myingyan, a town in central Myanmar, where the online news site The Irrawaddy reported at least one person was killed Sunday. Unconfirmed reports on social media said at least one more person was killed there Monday.

Marches were held in Mandalay, the country’s second biggest city, and elsewhere to show support for the “National Unity Government” announced Friday by protest leaders. Security forces reportedly broke up a march at dawn in Mandalay that included Buddhist monks.

Social media were flooded with appeals to “Please save Myingyan.”

Another news site, Myanmar Now, said security forces on Sunday launched attacks in Myingyan with the main target being a street stronghold set up by protesters, some believed armed with hunting rifles.

It said the stronghold, fortified with sandbags, was destroyed by government forces, rebuilt overnight and then destroyed again Monday morning.

Setting up street barricades is one of the tactics used by protesters against the Feb. 1 army takeover that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Often the strongholds last for just a few hours before being captured and destroyed by police and soldiers, then are rebuilt overnight.

Their defenders use homemade weapons, such as gasoline bombs, and security personnel respond with overwhelming force, frequently resulting in multiple fatalities.

Most protesters, however, embrace nonviolence and seek to avoid confrontations in their marches and motorcycle processions. Security personnel frequently employ lethal force to break up their rallies as well.

Security forces have killed at least 737 protesters and bystanders since the military takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors casualties and arrests.

The government in recent weeks seems to be pursuing a strategy of hunting down individual protest leaders nationwide, while using overwhelming force, town by town, to smash street protests and intimidate participants.

The military has issued widely circulated wanted lists of more that 200 protest supporters — including actors, internet influencers and medical personnel — accused of endangering public order, a charge punishable by up to three years in prison. Arrests are also highly publicized.

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