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Myanmar sees largest-scale protests since coup

YANGON

Massive demonstrations against the military coup in Myanmar were staged in cities and towns across the country on Monday, as a general strike shut many businesses.

The protests appear to be largest in the three weeks since the coup took place, with millions of people participating, according to local media reports.

The protesters opposing the Feb. 1 coup and calling for the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi include civil servants and medical personnel as well as workers in the textile industry, where operations at most factories have come to a standstill. Local supermarket chains and other commercial facilities across the country were also temporary closed Monday.

In the largest city Yangon, the military placed barricades on roads near the U.S. and Chinese embassies as well as a U.N. office where a number of protesters were gathering around.

Tensions between the protesters and the military have risen since riot police opened fire on demonstrators and killed two people Saturday in the nation’s second-largest city Mandalay.

The deaths came a day after the first protester since the coup died in hospital in the capital Naypyitaw after 10 days on life support. She was shot in the head while participating in a Feb. 9 demonstration.

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Tom Andrews, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said on Twitter that he was “deeply concerned (with) an ominous public warning by the junta that protesters are ‘inciting the people’ to ‘a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life’.”

Andrews warned the military that its actions are being recorded and its leader “will be held accountable” for what transpires.

“From water cannons to rubber bullets to tear gas and now hardened troops firing point blank at peaceful protesters. This madness must end, now!” he said.

Also Monday, the Council of the European Union condemned the coup in Myanmar and said its military leaders could face sanctions.

In a statement, the council said, “the EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup and their economic interests.”

The council urged an end to the state of emergency, the release of detained civilian leaders including Suu Kyi, restoration of civilian-led government and the opening of the newly elected parliament.

It also urged “maximum restraint” by authorities amid the mass protests and said all sides should refrain from violence.

The statement came shortly after U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken warned on Twitter that “the United States will continue to take firm action against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government.”

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