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YANGON: Defiant anti-coup protesters returned to the streets across Myanmar on Thursday after the deadliest day of the junta’s crackdown, as the United Nations called on the military to “stop murdering” civilians.

Myanmar has been in uproar since the military seized power on February 1, ending a decade-long experiment with democracy and triggering a mass uprising that the junta has increasingly sought to quash with lethal force.

Wednesday was the bloodiest day so far, with the UN saying at least 38 people died, as online images streamed out of Myanmar showing security forces firing into crowds and blood-covered bodies with bullet wounds in their heads. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday urged security forces to “halt their vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters”. “Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protesters,” she said in a statement.

“It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country.”

The UN rights office also said it has verified at least 54 deaths since the coup — though the actual number could be far higher — and over 1,700 people have been detained.

State-run media on Thursday blamed the “riots” on protesters and said security forces “used only crowd control weapons to keep the injuries to a minimum”. Demonstrators returned to the streets again in Yangon and Mandalay, the nation’s two biggest cities, as well as other towns that have been hotspots for unrest.

In recent days, Yangon’s San Chaung township has descended into chaos as security forces massed there to stop anti-coup protesters from gathering.—AFP

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