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Over 700 dead in junta's crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar

In latest violence, blast outside military-owned bank in Mandalay injures guard

YANGON A security guard was wounded in a bomb blast outside a military-owned bank in Myanmar's second-biggest city yesterday morning, as the civilian death toll from the junta's brutal crackdown on dissent topped more than 700 at the weekend.

The country has been in turmoil since the military removed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1.

Myawaddy Bank's biggest branch in Mandalay was targeted and a security guard was injured in the explosion, according to local media.

The bank is one of scores of military-controlled businesses that have faced boycott pressure since the coup, with many customers demanding to withdraw their savings.

On Saturday, a local monitoring group said security forces gunned down and killed 82 anti-coup protesters the previous day in the city of Bago.

AFP-verified footage shot early Friday showed protesters hiding behind sandbag barricades wielding homemade rifles, as explosions were heard in the background.

The United Nations office in Myanmar tweeted late on Saturday that it was following the bloodshed in Bago, where it said medical treatment had been denied to the injured.

Overall, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has verified 701 civilian deaths since the putsch.

The junta has a far lower number: 248, according to a spokesman on Friday.

University students and their professors marched through the streets of Mandalay and the city of Meiktila yesterday morning, according to local media.

Some carried stems of Eugenia flowers - a symbol of victory. State media reported last week that 19 people had been sentenced to death for robbery and murder by a military court, with 17 of them tried in absentia.

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Meanwhile, Myanmar youth are fighting the junta's Internet shutdown and information suppression with an explosive underground printed newsletter they are secretly distributing. For 56 days straight, there have been Internet outages in Myanmar, according to monitoring group NetBlocks.

Mr Lynn Thant (not his real name), 30, started the underground newsletter and gave it the edgy name Molotov to appeal to young people.

"This is our response to those who slow down the flow of information - and that is a threat to us," he told AFP.

Thousands of readers across the country are downloading the PDF version of the publication and printing out and distributing physical copies across neighbourhoods in Yangon and Mandalay and other areas.

He is conscious of the risks.

"If we write revolutionary literature and distribute it like this, we could end up in prison for many years," he said, his face concealed by a Guy Fawkes mask popularised by the dystopian movie V For Vendetta.

"Even if one of us is arrested, there are young people who will carry on producing the Molotov newsletter. Even if one of us is killed, someone else will come up when someone falls. This Molotov newsletter will continue to exist until the revolution is successful," he said.

He said the publication had a reach of more than 30,000 people on Facebook so far and the main audience was Generation Z activists. - AFP

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