Security forces in Myanmar have trapped hundreds of young protesters overnight in a district of Yangon and threatened to hunt them down from door to door while the international community appealed for them to be allowed to leave.
Police, firing guns and using stun grenades, announced they would check houses for anyone from outside the Sanchaung district and would punish anyone caught hiding them.
In defiance of a night time curfew, thousands of people took to the streets of Myanmar’s main city in support of the youths in the Sanchaung district, where they had been holding the latest daily protest against the Feb. 01 coup.
The UN office in Myanmar as well as the US and British embassies appealed to security forces to allow protesters to leave without violence or arrest.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “calls for maximum restraint and urges for the safe release of all without violence or arrests,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
But there was no sign of the police withdrawing. On Facebook, residents and the local MTK news service posted that as of the early hours of Tuesday 20 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after police searched houses.
Elsewhere in Yangon, thousands of people defied an 8pm curfew, chanting “Free the students in Sanchaung”, prompting security forces to fire guns and use stun grenades to try to disperse them.
A military government spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.
State television MRTV earlier said: “The government’s patience has run out and while trying to minimise casualties in stopping riots, most people seek complete stability (and) are calling for more effective measures against riots.”
Three protesters were killed in demonstrations in northern Myanmar and the Irrawaddy Delta on Monday, according to witnesses and local media.
The army takeover and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has plunged Myanmar into chaos. Security forces have killed over 60 protesters and detained more than 1,800 since then, an advocacy group said.
Demonstrations have been held daily for more than a month to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and recognition for the election her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won last November.
The army took power citing fraud in the ballot – an accusation rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised another election, but without giving a date.
The military has brushed off condemnation of its actions, as it has in past periods of army rule when outbreaks of protest were bloodily repressed.
The military government also placed a major curb on media coverage of the crisis. It announced that the licenses of five local media outlets — Mizzima, DVB, KhitThit Media, Myanmar Now and 7Day News — have been cancelled.
“These media companies are no longer allowed to broadcast or write or give information by using any kind of media platform or using any media technology,” it said on state broadcaster MRTV.
All five had been offering extensive coverage of the protests, often with live steaming video online. The offices of Myanmar Now were raided by the authorities Monday before the measure was announced.
The government has detained dozens of journalists since the coup, including a Myanmar Now reporter and Thein Zaw of the Associated Press, both of whom have been charged under a public order law that carried a penalty of up to three years in prison. (Source: CNA)