YANGON: Thousands of Myanmar anti-coup demonstrators defied an ongoing military crackdown on Sunday, following overnight raids in Yangon in which an official from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was beaten to death and several others were detained.

Myanmar has been rocked by unrest since a Feb 1 coup ousted civilian leader Suu Kyi from power and triggered a mass uprising of people opposed to the new military junta.

Wednesday was the deadliest day so far, with the United Nations saying at least 38 people were killed when security forces fired into crowds, shooting some protesters in the head.

The UN rights office also said it has verified at least 54 deaths since the coup — though the actual number could be far higher — and more than 1,700 people have been detained.

Soe Win with the National League for Democracy (NLD) confirmed that some party officials were arrested in Saturday night raids, but the exact number is unknown.

At least one community leader linked to the ousted NLD government, 58-year-old Khin Maung Latt, was killed during a raid at Pabedan township in Yangon, said Tun Kyi with the Former Political Prisoners Society. “He was beaten and taken in a raid... and it seems he underwent a harsh interrogation,” he said, adding his body had been taken to a cemetery.

State-run media on Sunday warned ousted lawmakers involved in a group called the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw — which is claiming to be the legitimate elected government — that they are committing “high treason” and could be sentenced to death or 22 years in jail.

The junta has declared group members personae non-grata and says those who communicate with them could face seven years prison.

The coup and brutal military crackdown has drawn widespread international condemnation as well as sanctions against key military personnel.

Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne announced on Sunday the country was suspending its defence cooperation programme with Myanmar, which included English language training.

Canberra is reviewing its aid programme so money is channelled away from government agencies towards not-for-profit organisations.

Payne also called for the immediate release of Australian economist Sean Turnell, an advisor to Suu Kyi, who remains in detention after the junta arrested him last month.

Burma Campaign UK says at least 12 countries maintain defence cooperation ties with Myanmar.

Sunday saw rallies across Myanmar against the military, with more than seven separate demonstrations in Yangon and at least five in other cities and regional towns, according to Facebook live feeds.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2021

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