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Huge anti-coup rallies in Myanmar after junta threat

The warning came after three demonstrators were shot dead over the weekend, and the funeral on Sunday for a young woman who died from bullet wounds at an earlier rally.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay on 22 February 2021. Picture: AFP

YANGON - Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters rallied across Myanmar again on Monday despite a clear threat from the junta that it was prepared to use lethal force to crush what it branded "anarchy".

The warning came after three demonstrators were shot dead over the weekend, and the funeral on Sunday for a young woman who died from bullet wounds at an earlier rally.

Massive street demonstrations have taken place since Myanmar's military staged a coup on 1 February and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ending a decade-long experiment with democracy.

A civil disobedience campaign has also since choked many government operations, as well as businesses and banks, and the junta late Sunday gave its most ominous signal yet that its patience was nearing an end.

"Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life," said a statement on state-run broadcaster MRTV.

The statement, read out in Burmese with text of the English version on the screen, cautioned protesters against inciting "riot and anarchy".

Protesters on Monday were undeterred by the warning, with tens of thousands rallying in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city and commercial hub.

"We came out today to join in the protest, to fight until we win," said Kyaw Kyaw, a 23-year-old university student.

"We are worried about the crackdown, but we will move forward. We are so angry."

Yangon residents had woken up Monday to a heavier security presence, including police and military trucks on the roads and an embassy district barricaded.

Another protester expressed similar defiance to AFP.

"The military unjustly took power from the elected civilian government," said the 29-year-old, who asked not to be named.

"We will fight until we get our freedom, democracy, and justice.

Thousands also rallied in Naypyidaw, the capital and a military stronghold, with many on motorbikes. There were also large protests in the cities of Myitkyina and Dawei.

Many businesses in Yangon, and in other major cities, were closed on Monday following calls for a general strike to inject more momentum into the civil disobedience movement.

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