(Reuters) -Myanmar anti-junta protesters held more rallies on Friday after the military reportedly shot dead nine people a day earlier and as the World Bank warned the country’s economy could slump 10% this year due to the turmoil since last month’s coup.
In a bid to increase pressure on the junta over the Feb. 1 coup, the United States and Britain imposed sanctions on conglomerates controlled by the military, with Washington calling it a response to the military’s “brutal repression”.
Candle-lit protests took place across the country overnight including in the Mandalay and Sagaing regions, as well as in Karen and Chin states, media reports said
A group of about 100 people beating drums held a protest in the downtown Sule area of Yangon before being chased away by security forces, witnesses said. “This war has not ended until we win,” one of the protesters, Phone Naing, told Reuters. “I will fight them as much as we can.”
In Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay, protesters marched on Friday morning in front of a “civil disobedience movement” banner, Mizzima news reported.
Organisers have called for widespread protests on Saturday, observed as Armed Forces Day, commemorating the start of the military’s resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945.
“We have to revive that history on March 27, 2021 in this spring revolution,” wrote Ei Thinzar Maung, a protest leader, in a social media post. “The day for the people to revolt against the Tatmadaw (military), which has been oppressing people for ages…has come again.”
Myanmar has been rocked by almost daily protests since the army overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and installed the junta. Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign to bring democratic civilian rule to Myanmar, and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) are being held in detention.
At least 320 people have been killed in the subsequent crackdown, according to figures compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.
Its data shows that at least 25 percent of those who were killed died from shots to the head, raising suspicions they were deliberately targeted for killing.
The World Bank on Friday slashed its forecast for Myanmar’s economy to a 10% contraction in 2021 from the growth expected previously.
Myanmar “has been heavily affected by protests, worker strikes, and military actions; reductions in mobility; and the ongoing disruption of critical public services in addition to banking, logistics, and internet services”, it said.
U.S., BRITISH SANCTIONS
In Washington, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited.
Both are part of a military-controlled network which spans sectors from mining to tourism and has enriched the generals. Representatives for the two entities had no immediate comment.
In a move coordinated with the United States, former colonial power Britain said it would also target Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd, citing human rights violations against civilians and its association with senior military figures.
A group of former NLD legislators welcomed the move. Dr Sasa, a medical doctor who goes by one name and has spoken publicly on behalf of the group, said in a Facebook post that all other governments should follow the UK and the United States “cooperating together and imposing targeted, stronger and tougher sanctions against the illegitimate military regime”.
The European Union announced sanctions on 11 individuals on Monday and is expected to target the conglomerates soon.
But although many foreign governments have condemned the military’s actions, Thomas Andrews, special U.N. rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said the diplomatic response was slow and called for an emergency summit on the crisis.
The AAPP recorded nine deaths of protesters at the hands of the security forces on Thursday.
Other media outlets reported at least seven protesters were wounded when security forces opened fire in various places. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
The military was trying to stifle protests before Armed Forces Day on Saturday, the AAPP said.
A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Unknown attackers hurled petrol bombs at the headquarters of the NLD in Yangon early on Friday, the Myanmar Now news portal reported. There were no casualties and some furniture was damaged, it said.
Residents said that after dark on Thursday, soldiers raided Yangon’s Mingalar Taungnyunt district and arrested people on the streets after curfew. Residents heard bangs that could be either stun grenades or gunfire, they said.
One resident said soldiers had shot at his building every night this week and checked houses they deemed suspicious.
“Even if they find nothing, they take everything they want,” he told Reuters.
Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore