UN warns Myanmar vs harsh response to coup protesters

REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR

THE UNITED Nations (UN) special envoy has warned Myanmar’s army of “severe consequences” for any harsh response to protesters demonstrating against this month’s coup in a call with the military leadership, a UN spokesman said.

Despite the deployment of armored vehicles and soldiers to some major cities at the weekend, protesters have kept up demonstrations to denounce the Feb. 1 takeover and demand the release of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.

Protests on Monday were smaller than the hundreds of thousands who had joined earlier demonstrations but broke out in many parts of the Southeast Asian country, where the coup has halted a decade of unsteady transition to democracy.

Small crowds gathered in two places in the main city of Yangon on Tuesday — at a traditional protest site near the main university campus and at the central bank, where protesters hoped to press staff to join a civil disobedience movement.

The army cut off the internet for a second consecutive night early on Tuesday though it was again restored at about 9 a.m. (0230 GMT)

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UN Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener spoke on Monday to the deputy head of the junta in what has become a rare channel of communication between Myanmar’s army and the outside world.

“Ms. Schraner Burgener has reinforced that the right of peaceful assembly must fully be respected and that demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq said at the United Nations.

“She has conveyed to the Myanmar military that the world is watching closely, and any form of heavy-handed response is likely to have severe consequences.”

In an account of the meeting, Myanmar’s army said junta Number Two, Soe Win, had discussed the administration’s plans and information on “the true situation of what’s happening in Myanmar”.

The unrest has revived memories of bloody outbreaks of opposition to almost half a century of direct army rule that ended in 2011 when the military began a process of withdrawing from civilian politics.

The army said late on Monday that protests were harming stability and had left people in fear.

“People are delighted to have the security patrols and the security forces will conduct them day and night,” its True News information team said.

An activist group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, said it had recorded 426 arrests between the coup and Monday and it feared the military was using internet blackouts to arrest more opponents, particularly after it suspended legal constraints on search and detention powers.

Violence during the protests has been limited compared with that under previous juntas, but police have opened fire several times, mostly with rubber bullets, to disperse protesters, including on Monday. — Reuters

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