Family members mourn next to the body of protester Than Htike Oo, who died after being shot by security forces during a crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup, in Mandalay on March 15. Photo: AFP / STR

Residents of a protest flashpoint district in Myanmar’s biggest city fled on flatbed trucks and tuk-tuks Tuesday after security forces escalated the use of lethal force against anti-coup protesters, despite international appeals for restraint.

By Tuesday morning, local media outlet The Irrawaddy published photos of residents fleeing the township, crowding onto flatbed trucks stuck in columns of snaking traffic. 

Some carried their pets on the back of motorbikes, while others crammed their belongings in vinyl bags on tuk-tuks.

“Migrant workers from Hlaing Tharyar are fleeing back to their home states,” reported local outlet Democratic Voice of Burma. 

“We can see the people on the roads for as far as one’s eye can see.”

The international community pleaded for restraint Monday as at least 20 more people were reported killed in Myanmar when demonstrators returned to the streets, demanding restored democracy despite an increasingly bloody crackdown by the military junta that seized power six weeks ago.

The United Nations, the United States, China and Britain all condemned the violence, which the UN said has claimed the lives of at least 138 “peaceful protesters” – including women and children – since the generals ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

So far Myanmar’s generals have shown no signs of heeding calls for restraint.

 Security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds against protesters in near-daily crackdowns across the country. 

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group that has been tracking arrests and fatalities, said at least 20 had died in Monday’s violence.

“Casualties are drastically increasing,” the association said in a Tuesday statement, adding that more than 180 people had been killed since the February 1 coup.

While the bulk of Monday’s deaths were anti-coup demonstrators, some were civilians who were “not even participating in the protests,” it said.

Most were killed in central Myanmar, while at least three died in commercial hub Yangon. 

The Yangon deaths included two women in their homes who were shot when security forces opened fire on the streets, according to AAPP.

AFP has independently verified 11 fatalities. 

Sunday marked the single deadliest day since the coup so far, with AFP confirming at least 44 people killed in unrest across the country. 

Six townships in Yangon were placed under martial law after Sunday’s violence.

Anyone arrested there faces trial by military tribunal rather than civilian courts, with sentences ranging from three years’ hard labour to execution.

The deadliest day yet came Sunday, when more than three dozen demonstrators were killed as security forces cracked down on pro-democracy rallies.

But Sunday’s killings did not stop demonstrators, who came out again Monday only to once again face what witnesses said was lethal force by the junta.

“The junta has responded to call for the restoration of democracy in Burma with bullets,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters Monday, using another name for Myanmar and labelling the Sunday attacks “another new low.” 

“The United States continues to call on all countries to take concrete actions to oppose the coup, and escalating violence,” she added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for the international community “including regional actors, to come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday.

UN envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener also condemned Sunday’s bloodshed, while the country’s former colonial ruler Britain said it was “appalled” by the use of force “against innocent people”.

Suu Kyi court appearance cancelled

News of the Monday violence was delayed in coming out due to a block on mobile data networks across Myanmar – which also scuppered a scheduled video court appearance by Suu Kyi.

The court hearing for the Nobel laureate – who spent more than 15 years under house arrest during previous military rule – was scheduled for 10am (0330 GMT) in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, but it was postponed until March 24, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP. 

“There’s no court hearing because there’s no internet and the hearing is conducted by video conference … We cannot do video,” he said.

Myanmar authorities have throttled the internet every night for several weeks, normally restoring services in the morning, but monitoring service Netblocks said mobile data networks were kept offline Monday.

Suu Kyi faces at least four charges, which include accepting illegal payments – allegations her lawyer says are “groundless.”