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YANGON: Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters returned to the streets in force on Wednesday, staging the biggest demonstrations since troops fanned out around the country to quell opposition to the new military junta.

Much of the country has been in open revolt since the army deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s government at the start of the month and charged her under an obscure import law.

Tens of thousands rallied in Yangon, some blockading roads with vehicles to stop security forces from moving around the nation’s biggest city. Police and soldiers were spotted near a key protest junction but appeared to be hanging back, looking on as demonstrators streamed past.

“We have to fight until the end,” Nilar, a 21-year-old student who asked not to use her real name, told AFP.

“We need to show our unity and strength to end military rule. People need to come out on the streets.”

In the second biggest city Mandalay, police and soldiers broke up a protest that had blocked the railway, two sources told AFP. Yan Naing, a member of a local emergency rescue service, said security forces opened fire, though it was not clear whether rubber bullets or live rounds were used.

Wednesday’s crowds came in defiance of violent efforts by the regime to bring resistance to heel — including use of tear gas and rubber bullets — following nationwide protests and a disobedience campaign encouraging civil servants to strike. Demonstrations over the past two days had been noticeably smaller since troops were deployed around Yangon at the weekend. But social media platforms had been flooded with calls for a show of force by protesters in the hours before the junta imposed a third consecutive overnight internet blackout.

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