Authorities in Myanmar extended martial law in more areas of the main city of Yangon on Monday amid reports of more protesters killed by security forces.

The advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been tracking the violence, said at least 20 people were killed Monday in shootings by security forces.

State-run MRTV news channel announced that the districts of North Dagon, South Dagon, Dagon Seikkan and North Okkalapa were under martial law, following a weekend of deadly protests.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he “is appalled by the escalating violence in Myanmar at the hands of the country’s military,” according to his spokesman.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said Monday the violence against protesters is “immoral and indefensible.”

Authorities late Sunday imposed martial law on Hlaingthaya, a suburb of Myanmar’s main city, after several Chinese-owned factories were set on fire and about 2,000 people had stopped fire engines from reaching the buildings, according to Reuters, quoting army-run Myawaddy television. China is seen as supportive of the Myanmar junta.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to Sunday’s attack on the factories during a regular news briefing Monday.

“The burning and looting of Chinese companies (are) abhorrent. We hope the Myanmar side will take concrete measures to protect the safety of Chinese citizens in Myanmar,” he said.

“The top priority is to prevent the occurrence of new bloody conflicts and to achieve an easing of the situation as soon as possible,” he added.

Various reports quoting AAPP said most of the deaths Sunday took place in Hlaingthaya, with more than 30 people killed in the suburb.

Nationwide, the AAPP said Monday that the death toll for Sunday had reached 74, making it the bloodiest day of demonstrations against the junta that seized power in a February 1 coup. The previous deadliest day was March 3, when 38 deaths were reported across Myanmar.

In an apparent bid to suppress news of the turmoil, mobile internet services were blocked Monday. Previously, the services were only turned off at night.

The blockage of the internet forced the postponement of a scheduled court hearing in the capital, Naypyitaw, for deposed de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was set to appear via videoconference, according to her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw.

Suu Kyi has been detained since the coup and faces five criminal charges, including accepting $600,000 in illegal payments plus gold bars while in office. She is also charged with illegally possessing six unregistered walkie-talkie radios, operating communications equipment without a license, violating COVID-19 protocols by holding public gatherings and attempting to incite public unrest.

The United Nations said Monday that at least 138 people have been killed since the coup more than six weeks ago, while the AAPP put the figure at 183.

Military officials have claimed widespread fraud in last November’s general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide, as justification for the takeover. The fraud allegations have been denied by Myanmar’s electoral commission.

Source: Voice of America