Tension high as mass protests in Myanmar enter second week

Saturday, 13 Feb, 2021

Mass protests in Myanmar entered their eighth day on Saturday. "Historical lessons have taught us that only national unity can ensure the non-disintegration of the Union and the perpetuation of sovereignty", he added. The electoral commission had dismissed the army's complaints.

Spontaneous neighbourhood watch groups mobilised to thwart arrests of anti-coup activists and the United Nations demanded the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The protests have revived memories of nearly half a century of direct army rule, punctuated by bloody crackdowns, until the military began relinquishing some power in 2011.

The military justified its takeover with claims of widespread voter fraud, though local and worldwide monitors said there were no major issues with the election that could have changed the outcome of the poll.

The U.S., especially after President Joe Biden announced sanctions against the military regime, is regarded as an ally in the protesters' struggle against the February 1 coup.

In Naypyitaw, more than 1,000 people marked the birthday of late independence hero Aung San, Suu Kyi's father. Arbitrary detentions and intimidation were also on the rise, with at least 220 government officials and members of civil society arbitrarily detained.

Again on Thursday, protesters, including teachers and government workers, gathered across the country.

"The students and the people are about to face bloodshed", protester Phyo Yadana Aung said.

A broadcast by state-run Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) said police had fired 10 rubber bullets because protesters were "continuing violent acts without dispersing from the area". "We can not let this happen".

U.S. Charge d'Affaires Mark Cassayre said: 'We ask all Council members to join the United States and others.in promoting accountability for those responsible for the coup, including through targeted sanctions'.

He had been one of her representatives in high-level talks with the military before the coup. The orders also commuted some death-penalty sentences to life imprisonment and reduced the terms of other prison sentences.

Friday's mostly peaceful protests were the biggest so far, and came a day after Washington imposed sanctions on generals who led the takeover.

It will also continue to implement the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, and the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Rakhine state.

People should inform the police if they spot any of the seven people named and will be punished if they shelter them, the army's True News information team said in a statement on its Facebook page on Saturday.

At its meeting Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council called for the immediate release of people "arbitrarily detained" - including Suu Kyi - and more action by top U.N. officials to increase scrutiny in the country.

The council has no power to impose sanctions but can train a political spotlight on rights abuses and violations.

Years of inaction on the Myanmar military by the global community contributed to the most recent coup in the country, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif said on Friday.

According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, the Department of Commerce also limited exports of sensitive goods to Myanmar's military and other entities.

Protesters have ignored a call from junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to stop.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the Treasury Department announced it was freezing US -based assets belonging to the sanctioned individuals. "We may need more punishment and action against Myanmar's acting president and generals".

Derek Mitchell, former USA ambassador to Myanmar and president of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute on the US sanctions on Myanmar, said sanctions on military holdings companies were a "de facto blanket sanction" on Myanmar because the firms were so deeply embedded in the economy.

The sanctions prevent the named individuals from doing business in the United States, though the military leadership is not known to have major USA interests.