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Pro-military supporters throw rocks at residents in Yangon Pro-military supporters throw rocks at residents in Yangon  (AFP or licensors)

Myanmar: Rival protest groups clash as pressure grows to resolve crisis

Supporters of Myanmar’s military attack anti-coup protesters in Yangon, as international pressure grows to find an end to the crisis.

By Devin Watkins

Pro-military protesters armed with knives, clubs, and slingshots attacked coup opponents in downtown Yangon on Thursday.

Around 1,000 army supporters gathered before demonstrators turned up for a rally. They threatened photographers and journalists, with violence escalating quickly.

Groups were photographed beating individual protesters. Emergency workers assisted one man laying on the ground after being attacked by a man wielding a knife.

In another area of Yangon, police barred hundreds of students from exiting the main university campus in order to demonstrate.

The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, seized power on 1 February in a coup, in which dozens of civilian leaders were detained.

Facebook ban for junta

International pressure continues to grow for a resolution to the crisis.

Facebook announced Thursday it had banned the military from using its Facebook and Instagram platforms with immediate effect.

In a blog post, Facebook said the escalating, deadly violence against protesters was the reason for the ban.

“We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” read the post, condemning the “exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar.”

The ban covers the military, its subunits, army controlled-media, and the ministries of home affairs, defense, and border affairs.

Regional efforts

Regional governments are also taking steps to end the impasse.

Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marusdi, visited Bangkok to meet with both Thailand’s and Myanmar’s foreign ministers. The meeting was part of efforts to coordinate a regional response.

Ms. Marsudi said afterwards that all parties were asked to exercise restraint and avoid violence and bloodshed.

Separately, Japan is reportedly working on plans to stop new development aid to Myanmar.

The government denied preparing for sanctions but said a change in policy was possible.

Japan has long had close ties with Myanmar and has held back from criticizing the military junta.

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25 February 2021, 15:29