At least four more protestors have been killed in different cities by the security forces, bringing the death toll to more than 70 since widespread protests began in the aftermath of last month's coup.

Anti-coup protesters run away when police security forces try to disperse them with tear gas in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 13, 2021.
Anti-coup protesters run away when police security forces try to disperse them with tear gas in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 13, 2021. (AFP)

Security forces in Myanmar have again used lethal force to disperse anti-coup protests as activists marked the death anniversary of a student whose killing in 1988 sparked an uprising against the military government.

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 Southeast 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 Friday night in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, where residents for the past week have been defying an 8 PM curfew to come out on the streets.

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Targeted raids

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 there to demand the release of three young men who were seized from their home earlier Friday night.

Photos said to be of the bodies of two dead protesters were posted online. 

The other reported fatality Friday night was of a 19-year-old man shot in Hlaing township.

The nighttime protests may reflect a more aggressive approach to self-defence that has been advocated by some protesters.

Police had been aggressively patrolling residential neighborhoods 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.

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Heightened resistance

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 rail 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, but it could serve a two-fold purpose.

It could be seen as support for the nationwide strike of state railway workers, who are part of the civil disobedience movement against the coup.

At the same time, it could be aimed as disrupting the ability of the junta to reinforce its troops in Kachin, a state whose residents have long been at odds with the central government.

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Phone Maw deathanniversary

Saturday's protests erupted after posters spread on social media urging people to mark the death anniversary of Phone Maw, who was shot and killed by security forces in 1988 inside what was then known as the Rangoon Institute of Techn ology campus.

His shooting and that of another student who died a few weeks later sparked widespread protests against the military government known as the 8-8-88 campaign, because they peaked in August that year. 

An estimated 3,000 people were killed when the army crushed the uprising, at the time the biggest challenge to military rule dating back to 1962.

Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a democracy icon during the movement and was kept under house arrest for nearly two decades.

She was released in 2008 as the military began democratic reforms. Her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015 and again in November last year.

On February 1 this year, the generals overthrew her government and detained Suu Kyi and many of her cabinet colleagues, claiming fraud in the November elections.

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Source: AP