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Two killed, 38 hurt in Myanmar rally

YANGON (AFP) – Two people were killed and 38 injured in a grenade attack on a pro-military rally in eastern Myanmar, a security official told AFP, as anti-coup protests were held across the country on the first anniversary of the military’s power-grab.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place as anti-coup activists marked the coup’s anniversary with a silent strike and clapping protests, defying junta orders.

The military takeover that ended the Southeast Asian country’s brief democratic interlude and toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has triggered mass protests and a crackdown on dissent.

Struggling to contain the backlash and contending with daily clashes, the junta has killed more than 1,500 civilians, according to a local monitoring group. Swathes of the country are under the control of anti-coup fighters.

Residents across commercial hub Yangon and in the city of Mandalay clapped en masse at 4pm, AFP correspondents and locals said, marking the end of a “silent strike” against the coup.

“We were clapping,” one Mandalay resident said. “Other houses in my neighbourhood clapped as well.”

Youth activists and monks participate in an anti-military government protest rally in Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

Ten people were arrested for taking part in the clapping protest in Yangon, local media reported.

The junta had ordered shops to stay open on Tuesday but the streets of Yangon began emptying at 10am, a scene that was repeated in Mandalay and the southern Tanintharyi region.

Mandalay’s famous jade market had opened in the morning but saw little traffic, a resident told AFP.

“I’m staying at home playing online games to participate in the silent strike.”

A similar shutdown in December emptied the streets of cities and towns across the country, but Tuesday’s was also marked by violence against the junta.

Two people were killed and 38 injured in a grenade attack as crowds returned from a pro-military rally in the eastern town of Tachileik a security official told AFP.

Local media also reported the incident that took place around noon in eastern Shan state, a region of the country that has seen comparatively little coup-related violence.

Ahead of the anniversary, the junta had threatened to seize businesses that shutter and warned that noisy rallies or sharing anti-military “propaganda” could lead to treason or terrorism charges.

“If the strike is shaping up as is reported, it is a thunderous silence, a resounding rebuke of military rule,” David Mathieson, an analyst formerly based in Myanmar, told AFP.

On Tuesday morning, local media showed isolated flash mobs in Yangon and Mandalay, where protesters unfurled pro-democracy banners and set off flares.

Photos released by the junta’s information team on Tuesday painted a picture of normalcy in the country, including competitors finishing a marathon in the southern Bago region and a religious celebration.

Undated video handouts showed pro-military demonstrations in unspecified parts of the country, some holding national flags and chanting slogans in support of the army. Others held banners denouncing the “People’s Defence Forces” that have sprung up to fight the military and dealt painful blows to junta troops with guerilla ambushes and mine attacks.

The United States (US), Britain and Canada unveiled coordinated sanctions on Myanmar officials on Monday, including those involved in the trial of ousted leader Suu Kyi.

Washington sanctioned Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Tin Oo, all of whom it said were closely involved in the “politically motivated” prosecution of Suu Kyi.

Citing “unspeakable violence against civilians”, the undermining of regional stability and “rampant” corruption, US President Joe Biden said he was working with allies to “hold accountable” those responsible.

But the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar said the international community needed to do more.

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