Security forces in Myanmar have again clashed with demonstrators protesting against last month’s military takeover, killing at least four people.
Three deaths were reported in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, and one in Pyay, a town in south-central Myanmar.
There were multiple reports on social media of the deaths, along with photos of dead and wounded people in both locations.
The independent UN human rights expert for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said on Thursday that “credible reports” indicated security forces in the south-east Asian nation had so far killed at least 70 people, and cited growing evidence of crimes against humanity since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reports on social media also said three people were shot dead on Friday night in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, where residents for the past week have been defying an 8pm curfew to come out on the streets.
Two deaths by gunfire were reported in Yangon’s Thaketa township, where a protest being held outside a police station was dispersed.
A crowd had gathered to demand the release of three young men who were seized from their home earlier on Friday. Photos said to be of the bodies of two dead protesters were posted online. The other reported death on Friday night was of a 19-year-old man shot in Hlaing township.
The night-time protests may reflect a more aggressive approach to self-defence that has been advocated by some protesters. Police had been aggressively patrolling residential areas at night, firing into the air and setting off stun grenades in an effort at intimidation. They have also been carrying out targeted raids, taking people from their homes with minimal resistance. In at least two known cases, the detainees died in custody within hours of being taken away.
Another possible indication of heightened resistance emerged on Saturday with photos posted online of a railway bridge said to have been damaged by an explosive charge.
The bridge was described in multiple accounts as being on the railway line from Mandalay to Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin. The photos show damage to part of a concrete support.
No one took responsibility for the action.
In Washington on Friday, the Biden administration announced it is offering temporary legal residency to people from Myanmar, citing the military’s takeover and ongoing deadly force against civilians.
Homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the designation of temporary protected status for people from Myanmar would last for 18 months.
The offer of temporary legal residency applies to people already in the United States. Mr Mayorkas said in a statement that worsening conditions in Myanmar would make it difficult for those people to safely return home.
The February 1 coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.
Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015, and an even greater margin of votes last year. It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Ms Suu Kyi, president Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention.