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Myanmar police crack down on protests; U.N. ambassador denounces coup

Demonstrators hold shields with the three-finger salute sign on a road during a protest Saturday against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Lynn Bo Bo/EPA-EFE
Demonstrators hold shields with the three-finger salute sign on a road during a protest Saturday against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Lynn Bo Bo/EPA-EFE

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Myanmar police stepped up their crackdown on protesters Saturday after the country's ambassador to the United Nations denounced the coup.

Police escalated use of force in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, by deploying rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against anti-coup protesters, Al Jazeera reported.

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Police charged at non-violent protesters at about noon in downtown Yangon, according to the Al Jazeera report, and violence escalated when the crowd reassembled. The officers allegedly brandished batons at journalists.

A student union activist told Al Jazeera he believed the crackdowns were meant to dissuade people from turning out for a big demonstration Sunday.

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The violent crackdown comes after Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, gave an emotional address Friday, saying he was representing the National League for Democracy ruling party for the civilian government overthrown by the military coup on Feb. 1. With his voice breaking in the General Assembly Hall, Tun gave the three-finger salute used by Myanmar protesters and said he would join protesters "to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, and for the people."

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Tun further appealed for all U.N. member states and the United Nations to condemn the takeover and take "all strongest possible measures to stop the violent and brutal acts committed by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators, and end the military coup immediately."

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners documented that at least 75 people were detained Saturday across the country, with potentially hundreds of people arrested, in its daily briefing.

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The protests and civilian labor strikes, as part of a civil disobedience movement against the military coup, started three days after the Myanmar military took over the government and detained its civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and other high-ranking democratically elected officials. The military, also known as the Tatmadaw, made unsubstantiated claims of fraud after November's parliamentary elections, during which Kyi won a landslide 399 of the 462 seats in Parliament. Protesters demand that Kyi be released along with other members of the National League for Democracy Party.

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Since the coup began, 854 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced; 771 were in detention or had outstanding warrants; and eight people died from violence including at protests, according to the AAPP.

Last week, police fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas and slingshots to disperse a crowd of protesters after sailors refused to return to work in Mandalay, killing two people and injuring dozens.

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Officials said one of the protesters shot in the leg during the Mandalay protest last week was treated at a military hospital and died Wednesday of COVID-19, but a doctor told Al Jazeera he was bleeding profusely and police refused to allow her to give him adequate medical treatment.

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