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World Myanmar junta hunts down leading dissidents as some police break ranks to join protests against coup

23:19  14 february  2021
23:19  14 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Myanmar's new military regime has warned the public not to harbour fugitive political activists and has issued arrest warrants for veteran democracy campaigners supporting nationwide protests against its coup.

Much of the country has been in uproar since soldiers detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ousted her government last week, ending a decade-old fledgling democracy after generations of junta rule.

On Sunday, the ninth day of protests against the military's actions, soldiers briefly moved armoured vehicles around Yangon, in the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the February 1 takeover.

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It came days after security forces stepped up arrests targeting a civil disobedience movement that has seen huge crowds throng streets in big urban centres and isolated frontier villages alike.

Security forces fired guns to disperse protesters outside a power plant in the northern state of Kachin on Sunday, footage broadcast live on Facebook showed, although it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live ammunition.

Hundreds had gathered outside the plant that soldiers had occupied in the city of Myitkyina.

As darkness fell, riot police accompanied by soldiers arrived to drive away the crowds, the footage showed.

The security forces doused the crowds with a water cannon and shots were heard.

"A few minutes ago the Tatmadaw [was] reinforced with military tanks and now they have started shooting," said one resident, using the Burmese term for the armed forces.

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The US embassy in Myanmar has urged American citizens to "shelter in place", citing reports of the military movements in Yangon. It also warned there was a possibility of a telecoms interruptions overnight.

As well as mass protests across Myanmar, the country's military rulers have faced strikes by government workers taking part in the civil disobedience movement.

The junta has ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action.

But hundreds of railway workers joined demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday, even as police went to their housing compound on the outskirts of the city to order them back to work.

The police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast by Myanmar Now.

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Police are hunting seven people who have lent vocal support to the protests, including some of the country's most famous democracy activists.

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"If you find any fugitives mentioned above or if you have information about them, report to the nearest police station," a notice in state media said on Sunday.

"Those who receive them will [face] action in accordance with the law."

Among the list of fugitives was Min Ko Naing, who spent more than a decade in prison for helping to lead protests against a dictatorship in 1988.

"They are arresting the people at night and we have to be careful," he said in a video published on Facebook on Saturday, skirting a junta ban on the platform, hours before his arrest warrant was issued.

"They could crack down forcefully and we will have to be prepared."

The 1988 protests vaulted Ms Suu Kyi to the top of Myanmar's democracy movement, and the Nobel laureate spent years under house arrest as a prisoner of the generals.

She has not been seen in public since she was detained on February 1 alongside top aides.

Nearly 400 others have been arrested in the days since, including many of Ms Suu Kyi's top political allies, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

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Police join protesters who continue defying junta

The army has been carrying out nightly mass arrests, and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.

But it has not deterred thousands in Yangon from returning to key intersections for another day of street protests.

And in the southern city of Dawei, seven police officers broke ranks on the weekend to join anti-coup protesters.

In Yangon, many areas have begun forming neighbourhood watch brigades to monitor their communities overnight — in defiance of a junta curfew — and to prevent the arrests of residents joining the civil disobedience movement.

Some have citizens have expressed fears that a mass prisoner amnesty this week was orchestrated to release inmates into the public to stir up trouble, while freeing up space in overcrowded jails for political detainees.

Near the city's central train station, residents rolled tree trunks onto a road to block police vehicles and they escorted away officers who were attempting to return striking railway employees to work.

A day earlier, Buddhist monks gathered outside the city's US embassy and chanted the Metta Sutta, a prayer that urges protection from harm.

Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has vowed to hold a new election and hand power to the winner.

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Junta tells media to not cause 'public unrest'

The country's new military leadership has so far been unmoved by the torrent of international condemnation of its coup.

An emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday called for the new regime to release all "arbitrarily detained" people and for the military to hand power back to Ms Suu Kyi's administration.

Solidarity protests have been staged in neighbouring Thailand, home to a large community of Myanmar migrant workers, as well as Australia, the United States and Japan.

But traditional allies of the country's armed forces, including Russia and China, have dissociated themselves from what they have described as interference in Myanmar's "internal affairs".

The junta insists it took power lawfully and has instructed journalists in the country not to refer to it as a government that took power in a coup.

"We inform … journalists and news media organisations not to write to cause public unrest," said a notice sent by the information ministry to the country's foreign correspondents' club late on Saturday.

It also instructed reporters to follow "news media ethics" while reporting events in the country.

ABC/wires

Fear and isolation as Myanmar junta cuts internet .
For the past two nights, Kyaw Soe has felt a knot in his stomach as he imagines family members, friends and colleagues swept up in night-time raids, increasingly common since Myanmar's military coup of February 1. That includes civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and deposed president Win Myint, who have not been seen in public since they were detained in pre-dawn raids on February 1. The military's ouster of the democratically elected government has galvanised a tremendous backlash with nationwide protests, a nightly campaign of banging pots and pans and strikes of factory workers, bankers, civil servants and even police officers.

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