Myanmar: Tensions high as anti-coup protests continue and regime steps up arrests

Myanmar: Tensions high as anti-coup protests continue and regime steps up arrests
Copyright Aung-Shine/AP
Copyright Aung-Shine/AP
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
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Protesters have defied a ban on public gatherings to as anti-coup demonstrations continue, while the authorities have stepped up the arrests of politicians and activists.


Mass street protests in Myanmar entered their second week on Saturday with neither protesters nor the military government showing any signs of backing off from confrontations.

Protesters in the biggest city Yangon, again congregated at Hleden intersection, a key crossroads from which groups fanned out to other points, including the embassies of the United States and China. They marched despite an order banning gatherings of five or more people.

Protesters have also taken to the streets of the second city Mandalay and the capital Naypyitaw.

They're demanding that the military hand back power to Aung San Suu Kyi's deposed civilian government and that she and other senior members of her government are freed.

The military detained them after blocking the new session of Parliament on February 1.

On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday launched a resolution calling for them to be released.

The Council also condemned the arrests of activists and journalists called on the military to respect the election results and restore civilian rule.

Myanmar's representative at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday said they "dissociate" with this resolution.

The new U.S. administration has come out in support of the protesters.

Meanwhile China, which neighbours Myanmar is detested by the protesters as an ally of the ruling generals, whose support is crucial to them keeping their grip on power.

The military said it was forced to act because Suu Kyi’s government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election.

Her party won in a landslide victory and the election commission said there is no evidence to support the military’s claims.

Concern over 'hundreds' in detention

Over the past three nights there have been many reports of raids during a curfew in which security personnel have tried to seize people from their homes.

Authorities have stepped up the arrests of politicians and activists, and in areas outside Yangon have become more aggressive in trying to break up protests.

According to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 326 people have been detained since the coup, of which 303 remain in custody.

“Family members are left with no knowledge of the charges, location or condition of their loved ones,” it said in a statement. ”These are not isolated incidents and nighttime raids are targeting dissenting voices. It is happening across the country.”

In several cases, neighbours and others people have rushed to the scene in such numbers that security forces have abandoned their attempts to haul in their targets. Videos of such raids have been widely posted on social media.

Detainees have included political leaders, government officials, civil servants, activists and student leaders. Medical personnel have been singled out because their community initiated the civil disobedience campaign against the military takeover and remains in its vanguard.


The military ruled directly for five decades after a 1962 coup, and used lethal force to quash a massive 1988 uprising and a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks.

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