Fear and defiance mount as Myanmar military forces make night-time arrests


Video footage showed people in Myanmar reacting with defiance to authorities’ use of night-time raids to arrest opponents of the military coup by banging pots and pans to warn their neighbours of approaching security forces.

The country’s military ruler, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has suspended laws constraining security forces from detaining suspects or searching private property without court approval and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests against the coup.

The announcements came on Saturday, eighth day of country-wide demonstrations against the February 01 takeover and detention of elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The army also announced that arrest warrants have been issued for seven high-profile critics of military rule over their comments on social media under the rarely used charge of “disturbing tranquility”.

One of them, Min Ko Naing, was one of the student leaders involved in the failed 1988 uprising against the then-military dictator. He has appeared in a social media video denouncing the use of night-time raids to make arrests.

BBC Burmese journalist Nyein Chan Aye said people in Myanmar were feeling “extremely insecure, anxious and uncertain about what will happen next”.

“Sleepless nights are becoming common here in Myanmar. Security forces are raiding people’s residences in many places across the country and trying to arrest those who are against the military junta. People are protecting each other, staying up late at night,” he said.

In the country’s biggest city, Yangon, footage showed people chanting and alerting neighbours as security vehicles approached. In a video shared with Reuters news agency, crowds could be seen surrounding and marching alongside police vehicles.

The videographer told the news agency the crowd had at least once made the police turn back from driving in the direction of West Yangon Hospital.

Other footage showed people gathering in Yangon to demand the release of a teacher who had reportedly been detained, and banging pots and pans when they thought police units were conducting raids to arrest people.

As people took to the streets for the eighth consecutive day on Saturday, protesters chanted: “Stop arresting people at night-time.”

Internet memes captioned “Our nights aren’t safe anymore” have been circulating on social media.

Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told the BBC there were “more and more night-time raids” taking place in Myanmar, in which people were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night.

“We have neighbourhoods now who are trying to organise. They’re using pot banging when it looks like the police or military are coming into the area. It really has become a situation where the crackdown is now going after anybody that the military identifies as leaders of these protests,” he said.

Myanmar group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has also voiced concern about overnight arrests.

“Family members are left with no knowledge of the charges, location, or condition of their loved ones. These are not isolated incidents, and night-time raids are targeting dissenting voices,” it said in a statement. (Source: BBC)