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Myanmar security forces open fire on protesters in Mandalay

Demonstrations intensify after Myanmar junta cuts Internet access and deploys extra troops across country

YANGON: Myanmar security forces opened fire yesterday to disperse protesters in the city of Mandalay, the media outlet Frontier Myanmar reported.

The number of casualties was not clear, it said. A member of a student union in the city said some people were wounded.

Intensifying fears the military was going to impose a far harsher crackdown, troops in the northern city of Myitkyina fired tear gas then shot at a crowd on Sunday night.

A journalist at the scene said it was unclear whether the police had used rubber bullets or live rounds.

There was violence in the capital Naypyidaw, too.

A protest yesterday led by high school student groups was met with use of force after they had retreated, the students told AFP. The police also arrested dozens of the young protesters.

"We were peaceful and even apologised... but then they fired a water cannon," a high school student told AFP, refusing to provide a name for fear of repercussions.

"We tried to resist it at first, but then they forcefully hit us with batons."

Myanmar's junta also deployed extra troops in other parts of the country and choked the Internet yesterday.

The military has steadily escalated efforts to quell an uprising against their seizure of power two weeks ago, which saw civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained along with hundreds, including members of her democratically elected government.

Ms Suu Kyi had been expected in court yesterday in connection with charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios, but a judge said her remand lasted until tomorrow, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

The generals ratcheted up the military's presence across the country overnight, including armoured vehicles in Yangon, the nation's commercial hub and biggest city.

Fresh protests - though much smaller than in previous days - again flared in the city, including near the central bank where troops were deployed.

ARMOURED

"Patrolling with armoured vehicles means they are threatening people," said 46-year-old Nyein Moe, among the more than 1,000 gathered in front of the bank.

"People are marching on the streets and they don't care to be arrested or shot.

"We can't stop now. The fear in our mind is going away."

By afternoon, thousands had gathered outside the Chinese and US embassies in Yangon, carrying signs that said "Get out dictator" and "We need US army to save our situation."

There was a fresh rally in the southern city of Dawei too, a verified live stream on Facebook showed, with hundreds of protesters accompanied by a marching band.

Some carried banners against the military that read: "They kill in (the) day. They steal at night. They lie on TV."

Monitoring group NetBlocks reported that a "state-ordered information blackout" had taken Myanmar almost entirely offline early yesterday.

Internet connectivity was later restored around the start of the working day, with NetBlocks saying the blackout lasted around eight hours.

The country's new military leadership has so far been unmoved by a torrent of international condemnation. - AFP, REUTERS

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