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Protests Continue Despite Myanmar's Crackdown On Demonstrators


In Myanmar, the military junta has declared martial law in parts of Yangon, the country's largest city. Now, the move follows one of the most lethal crackdowns by security forces against protesters since February 1, when the military seized control of the government. Local media say nearly 40 people were killed Sunday. Now, despite this, protesters were out on the streets again today. Reporter Michael Sullivan joins us now from neighboring Thailand. Michael, the government seems very motivated on putting an end to these demonstrations. What's the latest?

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: They are motivated. But there were more demonstrations again today, as you mentioned, in Yangon, in Myanmar's second city, Mandalay, and elsewhere. And there are reports of more protesters killed by security forces again today as well. This after yesterday's violence in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya, where security forces used live ammunition against protesters, killing dozens, and where several Chinese-owned or managed factories were set on fire. It's not clear by whom. Though, state-run media claims protesters prevented firefighters from reaching some of those factories. The Chinese embassy said several of its citizens were injured in those fires and asked the military to protect Chinese property and its citizens. And the junta has responded by declaring martial law in Hlaingthaya and five other townships.

MARTÍNEZ: Do we know why those factories were set on fire?

SULLIVAN: No. Though, there is this perception shared by many in Myanmar, I think, that China has been largely supportive of the coup-makers and hasn't really called out the military for seizing power as the U.S. and Great Britain and others have done. And that's really frustrating to many in Myanmar trying to get this coup overturned. And this anti-Chinese feeling is real enough that after these fires, according to Reuters, Taiwan advised Taiwanese companies in Myanmar to fly the island's flag outside their businesses to avoid being mistaken for mainland China-owned businesses.

MARTÍNEZ: Still no word, though, from deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi since her arrest February 1. But Saturday, a high-ranking official member of her party, the National League for Democracy, urged protesters to continue to resist. Michael, is this having any effect?

SULLIVAN: It doesn't seem to be. I mean, the party's acting vice president has been in hiding, along with many other NLD leaders. And he surfaced on video on Saturday calling this the darkest moment for the nation and urged the NLD supporters and Myanmar's ethnic minority groups, some of whom have armed wings who've been fighting against the military for decades, to come together and continue what he called this revolution. But the speech doesn't seem to have gotten much traction among the protesters or the ethnic minority groups. And the demonstrators don't need any more encouragement. Their disobedience movement and a general strike have already brought much of the economy to a halt.

MARTÍNEZ: The Biden administration on Friday offered temporary legal residency for people from Myanmar in the wake of this coup. Has there been any reaction to that move?

SULLIVAN: Not much. And it's probably because that offer only applies to about 1,600 people in the U.S. already. And it doesn't do anything to change what's happening on the ground in Myanmar, where the military shows absolutely no sign of backing down. If anything, it's doubling down, more than 50 dead this weekend alone. And the protesters, of course, show no sign of giving in either despite the crackdown.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Michael Sullivan reporting from neighboring Thailand. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.