Tensions high as mass protests in Myanmar enter second week

UN demands release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Opposition to Myanmar’s new military regime intensified on Saturday as spontaneous neighbourhood watch groups mobilised to thwart arrests of anti-coup activists and the UN demanded the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Army takeover that brought a decade-old democracy to an end last week has unleashed a storm of anger and defiance, with huge daily protests bringing urban centres around the country to a standstill.

Since taking Suu Kyi and her top allies into custody, troops have stepped up arrests of civil servants, doctors and others joining strikes calling on the generals to relinquish power.

Crowds defied overnight curfews to gather on the streets as night fell, hours after finishing a seventh straight day of rallies, following rumours that police were launching a fresh wave of arrests. One group swarmed a hospital in the city of Pathein on rumours that a popular local doctor would be taken.

“If I have problems, I will ask for your help," Than Min Htut told the group who had come to aid him.

He told AFP Saturday he would continue participating in a civil disobedience campaign opposing military rule.

People in Yangon skirted a junta ban on Facebook to organise neighbourhood watch groups that warned of rumoured arrests.

"We didn’t know who will be taken, but when we heard the sound, we went out to join our neighbours," said Tin Zar, a storekeeper in Yangon’s north. "Even if they shoot, we are not afraid," she told AFP.

Over 300 arrested

More than 320 people have been arrested since last week’s coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group. An emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva called for the new regime to release all "arbitrarily detained" persons and hand power back to Suu Kyi’s administration.

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