Thousands protest Myanmar coup after night of fear, security patrols

YANGON (REUTERS) : Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Myanmar’s major cities for a ninth straight day of anti-coup demonstrations on Sunday (Feb 14), after a fearful night as residents formed patrols and the army rolled back laws protecting freedom.

Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the biggest city, wearing white and carrying placards demanding the release of former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since Myanmar’s military overthrew her elected government on Feb 1.

A convoy of thousands on motorbikes and cars also drove through the capital Naypyitaw, with protesters holding up images of Ms Suu Kyi’s face.

Her detention, on charges of importing walkie-talkies, is due to expire on Monday. Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw could not be reached for comment on what was set to happen.

More than 384 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, in a wave of mostly nightly arrests.

Many protesters in Yangon carried signs calling the authorities to “stop kidnapping people at night”.

Protesters hold signs calling for the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on Feb 14, 2021.
Protesters holding signs calling for the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on Feb 14, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

Residents banded together late on Saturday to patrol streets in Yangon and second city Mandalay, fearing arrest raids as well as common crime after the junta ordered the release of thousands of prisoners.

In different neighbourhoods, groups of mostly young men banged on pots and pans to sound the alarm as they chased down what they believed to be suspicious characters.

Also late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report overnight visitors to their homes, 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.

The coup has prompted the biggest street protests in more than a decade and has been denounced by Western countries, with the United States announcing some sanctions on the ruling generals and other countries also considering measures.

About 200 students gathered at the university in Manila’s northern suburb of Quezon City to protest the announcement.

By allowing security forces back on campus, they said, the government had targeted one of the few places in the Philippines where criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte was still tolerated.

For them, the purpose of the new rule was clear: another crackdown on political freedom in a country where dissidents are often tagged and dispatched at a moment’s notice.

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