"Casualties are drastically increasing," says activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, after a day of anti-coup protests that left at least 20 people dead.

Anti-coup protesters display placards as they gather in Yangon, Myanmar Tuesday, on March 16, 2021.
Anti-coup protesters display placards as they gather in Yangon, Myanmar Tuesday, on March 16, 2021. (AP)

More than 180 people have been killed by security forces in weeks of protests against the military coup in Myanmar, an activist group has said, as families of those killed in fresh clashes prepared to hold funerals.  

"Casualties are drastically increasing," the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said in a Tuesday's statement, adding that more than 180 people had been killed since the February 1 coup.

At least 20 people were killed on Monday, it said, adding, 74 people died on Sunday – the bloodiest single day so far.

While the bulk of Monday's deaths were anti-coup demonstrators, some were civilians who were "not even participating in the protests", the AAPP said.

UN: At least 138 'peaceful protesters' killed

The UN condemned the latest violence and said at least 138 "peaceful" people have been killed since February 1.

"This includes 38 people who were killed yesterday [Sunday], the majority in the Hlaing Thayer area of Yangon, while 18 people were killed on Saturday," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The UN figure didn't mention Monday's casualties. 

A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment and Reuters news agency said it could not independently confirm all the casualties.

So far Myanmar's generals have shown no signs of heeding calls for restraint, and supporters of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi have shown no signs of backing down in the face of escalating violence.

READ MORE: Myanmar army continues lethal crackdown after deadliest weekend on record

Funeral preparations

Meanwhile, the families of dozens of people killed in clashes between Myanmar security forces and anti-coup protesters held funerals on Tuesday after candle-lit vigils took place overnight in defiance of a curfew.

Candle-lit vigils were held overnight in parts of Yangon and Mandalay and some other towns, according to media reports and photographs on social media.

Funerals of dead protesters were due to take place including in Yangon. Some parts of the city are still under martial law. 

Residents flee Yangon townships 

On Tuesday, residents of a protest flashpoint district in Myanmar's biggest city fled on flatbed trucks and tuk-tuks.

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.

"We can see the people on the roads for as far as one's eye can see," reported local outlet Democratic Voice of Burma.

A resident confirmed the mass exodus to AFP news agency, saying that people wanted to leave at dawn and protesters removed makeshift barricades –– erected to slow security forces down –– to let them out. 

"After 9 am, residents blocked the roads again with barriers. They allowed people to leave in the morning only," she said, adding that security forces have been deployed on the township's main roads. 

"We dare not go out on the streets," she said, adding that there are sounds of gunfire at night. 

READ MORE: Myanmar junta hires Israeli-Canadian lobbyist for $2M to defend coup

History of military rule

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in a November 8 election won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election, but has not set a date.

The military has ruled Myanmar for most of the years since independence from Britain in 1948, and cracked down hard on previous uprisings before agreeing to the latest attempt at a transition to democracy, now derailed.

Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup and faces various charges, including illegally importing walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols. Last week, the junta accused her of accepting illegal payments but she has not yet been charged with that.

Western countries have called for Suu Kyi's release and condemned the violence and Asian neighbours have offered to help resolve the crisis, but Myanmar has a long record of rejecting outside intervention.

READ MORE: US imposes sanctions against Myanmar military leaders after coup

Food price irks

Also on Tuesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) said food prices were rising with palm oil 20 percent higher in some places around the main city of Yangon since the beginning of February and rice prices up 4 percent in the Yangon and Mandalay areas since the end of February.

In some parts of Kachin State in the north, the price of rice was up as much as 35 percent, while prices of cooking oil and pulses were sharply higher in parts of Rakhine State in the west, the WFP said in a statement.

The cost of fuel had risen by 15 percent nationwide since February 1, raising concern about further food price increases, it said.

"These rising food and fuel prices are compounded by the near paralysis of the banking sector, slowdowns in remittances, and widespread limits on cash availability," the WFP said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies