Plumes of smoke rise from Yangon under martial law

Yangon, March 17 (AFP/APP): Plumes of smoke rose Wednesday above a part of Myanmar’s biggest city under martial law which has turned into a battle zone, with burning barricades and security forces firing at unarmed anti-coup protesters.

Traumatised residents have fled the industrial neighbourhood in Yangon that has become one of the flashpoint sites in a nationwide uprising against the military’s coup nearly seven weeks ago. The junta has increasingly deployed heavier force to quell the demonstrations, with more than 200 protesters reported to have been killed in the crackdown.

Sunday was the deadliest day since the coup, with a local monitoring group documenting more than 70 people killed — the bulk of them in the industrial Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon that has become the battle zone. The junta on Sunday imposed martial law on Hlaing Tharyar and later on other protest hotspot townships — effectively placing nearly two million people under complete control of military commanders. Residents — many of them migrant workers — have since fled back to their home states, piling their belongings and families onto flat-bed trucks and the backs of motorbikes.

Those who stayed reported scenes akin to war. “There was constant gunshots the entire night and we didn’t get to sleep,” one resident told AFP, adding people were worried about even walking on the streets for fear of getting targeted by security forces.

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