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Myanmar Police Fire Warning Shots to Disperse Protesters

Demonstrators rally against the military coup after riot police officers used tear gas to disperse a crowd that held a protest the previous night in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood in Myanmar, Feb. 26, 2021.

Police and security forces in Myanmar's largest city fired warning shots Friday as they moved to break up a group of about 1,000 demonstrators who had gathered at a popular shopping mall in Yangon’s Tamwe neighborhood overnight to protest a military-appointed official.

Protesters were holding banners and shouting slogans denouncing the Feb. 1 coup, despite the increase of the security presence with a water cannon truck stationed in the area.

According to state media and eyewitnesses, a unit of about 50 riot police acted against the protesters and arrested at least one demonstrator.

The Reuters news agency reports that a Japanese journalist was detained at a protest in Yangon on Friday. If confirmed, the detention would be the first of a foreign journalist since the coup.

On Thursday the World Bank said it would not disburse funds to Myanmar in the wake of the military takeover.

The political crisis in the country took a new turn Thursday when supporters of the military junta in Yangon attacked demonstrators protesting the Feb. 1 overthrow of the civilian government.

The violence capped a day that began when hundreds of pro-military supporters turned up for a rally in downtown Yangon. The pro-military supporters were marching near the city’s central railway station when they were jeered by a group of bystanders and responded by firing slingshots and throwing stones at them.

Popular protests against the coup have been staged across Myanmar on a daily basis since the military detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the civilian government on Feb. 1, claiming widespread fraud in November’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

The United Nations said 150 people in the capital were arrested Monday.

“The U.N. team is currently tracking more than 900 political and state officials, activists and civil society members – including journalists, monks and students – now being detained. And of course, we call for their immediate release,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters Thursday.

The junta has declared a one-year state of emergency. Its commander, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, has pledged that new elections will be held to bring about a "true and disciplined democracy,” but did not specify when they would take place.

Myanmar’s electoral commission denied the military’s claims of election fraud.

The United States and other Western nations have demanded the release of Suu Kyi and her lieutenants, who have been detained since the coup, and called on the junta to restore power to the civilian government.