US nears 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as vaccine drives gather momentum

US nears 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as vaccine drives gather momentum
US nears 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as vaccine drives gather momentum

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Businesses shut in Myanmar on Monday in a general strike called to oppose the military coup and thousands of protesters gathered in towns and cities despite a chilling message from the junta that confrontation would cost more lives.
On Sunday, hundreds of people attended the funeral in the capital Naypyitaw of Mya Thwate Thawte Khaing, a young woman who became a symbol of resistance after being shot in the head on Feb.9 while protesting.
On Saturday, two more protesters were killed when police opened fire in the city of Mandalay, marking the bloodiest day in the campaign for the restoration of democracy.
Yet, three weeks after seizing power, the junta has failed to stop daily protests and a civil disobedience movement calling for the reversal of the Feb. 1 coup and release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Everyone is joining this,” said San San Maw, 46, at the Hledan junction in the main city of Yangon, which has become a rallying point for the protests. “We need to come out.”
State-owned media MRTV warned protesters against action on Monday.
“Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a path of confrontation where they will suffer loss of life,” it said.
Htet Htet Hlaing, 22, said she was scared and had prayed before joining Monday’s demonstration, but would not be discouraged.
“We don’t want the junta, we want democracy. We want to create our own future,” she said. “My mother didn’t stop me from coming out, she only said ‘take care’.”
In a country where dates are seen as auspicious, protesters noted the significance of the date 22.2.2021, comparing it with demonstrations on Aug. 8, 1988 when a previous generation staged anti-military protests which were bloodily suppressed.
The response of security forces this time has been less deadly. Aside from the three protesters that have been killed, the army has said one policeman died of injuries in protests.
The deaths in Mandalay did not discourage protesters on Sunday, when they turned out again in tens of thousands there and in Yangon and elsewhere.
As well as local stores, international chains announced closures on Monday, including Yum Brands Inc.’s KFC and delivery service Food Panda, owned by Delivery Hero. Southeast Asian company Grab stopped delivery services too, but left its taxis running.
Protesters were also out in various towns around the country including Myitkyina in the north, Bhamo near the Chinese border and in the central town of Pyinmana, according to media reports.
Authorities were “exercising utmost restraint,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. It rebuked some countries for remarks it described as flagrant interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs.
Several Western countries have condemned the coup and decried the violence against protesters.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter the United States would continue to “take firm action” against authorities violently cracking down on opponents of the coup in the Southeast Asian country that is also known as Burma.
“We stand with the people of Burma,” he said.
Britain, Germany, Japan and Singapore have also condemned the violence and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said lethal force was unacceptable.

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