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(Reuters) – Myanmar police moved quickly on Sunday to stamp out protests against military rule, throwing stun grenades and firing into the air a day after the most extensive crackdown yet, and several people were wounded, media and witnesses said.
Several bloodied people were seen being helped away from protests in the main city of Yangon in images posted by media outlets, but it was not clear if they were hurt by rubber bullets or live fire.
The Myanmar Now media group said people had been “gunned down” but it did not elaborate.
The police action came after state television announced that Myanmar’s U.N. envoy had been fired for betraying the country after he urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the Feb. 1 coup that ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar was thrown into chaos when the army seized power and detained Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
The coup, which stalled Myanmar’s progress toward democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
Police were out early again on Sunday taking positions at main protest sites in the city of Yangon as protesters, many clad in protective gear, began to congregate, witnesses said.
Police moved swiftly to break up crowds.
“Police got out of their cars and started throwing stun grenades without warning,” said Hayman May Hninsi who was with a group of fellow teachers in Yangon. They fled to nearby buildings.
“Some teachers got hurt running. We’re assessing the situation and whether to go out again or not.”
Doctors and students in white lab coats fled as police threw stun grenades outside a medical school in another part of the city, posted video showed.
Police in the second city of Mandalay fired guns into the air, trapping protesting medical staff in a city hospital, a doctor there said by telephone.
Police and the spokesman for the ruling military council were not available for comment.
The crackdown appears to indicate a determination by the military to impose its authority in the face of widespread defiance, not just on the streets but more broadly, in areas including the civil service, municipal administration, the education and health sectors and media.
Saturday brought disturbances in towns and cities across the country as police moved forcefully to crush the protests, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting into the air.
One woman was shot and wounded in the central town of Monwya, 7Day News and an emergency worker said. 7Day and two other media organisations had earlier reported that she was killed.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities have been using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died over the days of turmoil. The army said a policeman has been killed in the unrest.
State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested. It said police had given warnings before using stun grenades to disperse people.
Youth activist Esther Ze Naw said people were battling to overcome the fear they had lived with for so long.
“This fear will only grow if we keep living with it and the people who are creating the fear know that. It’s obvious they’re trying to instill fear in us by making us run and hide,” she said. “We can’t accept that.”
Saturday’s violence came after Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the U.N. General Assembly he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for help to end the coup.
MRTV television said he had been fired in accordance with civil service rules because he had “betrayed the country” and “abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador”.
The U.N. has not recognised the junta as Myanmar’s new government and the ambassador vowed to fight on.
“I decided to fight back as long as I can,” Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters in New York.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed by the ambassador’s “act of courage”, adding on Twitter, “It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action”.
Myanmar’s generals have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure. They have promised to hold a new election but not set a date.
Suu Kyi’s party and supporters said the result of the November vote must be respected.
Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.
The next hearing in her case is set for Monday.