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Myanmar protesters leave Yangon district after being trapped by security forces

Myanmar protesters leave Yangon district after being trapped by security forces

In this image taken from video, people stand outside their homes and gather together on a road in Insein township in Yangon, Myanmar on Mar 8, 2021. (AP Photo)

YANGON: Hundreds of young Myanmar protesters who had been trapped by security forces in a district of Yangon overnight have been able to get out, activists said on Tuesday (Mar 9).

This comes after calls from western countries and the United Nations for them to be allowed to leave.

Thousands of people defied a night time curfew to take to the streets of Myanmar's main city in support of the youths in the Sanchaung district, where they had been holding the latest daily protest against the Feb 1 coup.

In Sanchaung, police firing guns and using stun grenades announced on Monday they would check houses for anyone from outside the district and would punish anyone caught hiding them.

Youth activist Shar Ya Mone said she had been in a building with about 15 to 20 others, but had now been able to go home.

"There were many free car rides and people welcoming the protesters," Shar Ya Mone said by telephone, pledging to keep demonstrating "until the dictatorship ends".

Another protester posted on social media that they had been able to leave the area at around 5am after security forces pulled out.

An advocacy rights group said around 50 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after police searched houses, though checks were still being made.

The army takeover and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has plunged Myanmar into chaos. Security forces have killed more than 60 protesters and detained more than 1,800 since then, an advocacy group said.

MEDIA OUTLETS ORDERED TO CLOSE

The military government also placed a major curb on media coverage of the crisis. It announced that the licenses of five local media outlets — Mizzima, DVB, Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now and 7Day News — have been cancelled.

READ: Commentary: Myanmar protesters play cat and mouse as military shuts down online platforms

“These media companies are no longer allowed to broadcast or write or give information by using any kind of media platform or using any media technology,” it said on state broadcaster MRTV.

All five had been offering extensive coverage of the protests, often with live steaming video online. The offices of Myanmar Now were raided by the authorities on Monday before the measure was announced. 

The government has detained dozens of journalists since the coup, including a Myanmar Now reporter and Thein Zaw of the Associated Press, both of whom have been charged under a public order law that carried a penalty of up to three years in prison.

UN URGES RESTRAINT

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had earlier called for "maximum restraint" and the safe release of all protesters without violence or arrests, a call echoed by the US and British embassies in Myanmar.

In a diplomatic blow to the military government, Myanmar's ambassador in Britain followed its UN representative in calling on Monday for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi - drawing praise from British foreign minister Dominic Raab.

A military spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

Tear gas and fire extinguisher gas float around demonstrators as they run away from police during a protest against the military coup in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Mar 8, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

State television MRTV earlier said: "The government's patience has run out and while trying to minimise casualties in stopping riots, most people seek complete stability (and) are calling for more effective measures against riots."

Three protesters were killed in demonstrations in northern Myanmar and the Irrawaddy Delta on Monday, according to witnesses and local media.

DOORS BROKEN

In the Lanmadaw district of Yangon, residents said security forces broke down doors in overnight arrest raids after youths there said they had caught some suspected soldiers transporting weapons in a private car.

"Please help, my door is being broken," one woman posted on Facebook. Twenty minutes later she said her father and uncle had been taken away. She did not know where.

A woman shows a three-finger salute during a protest against the military coup in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Mar 8, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

Demonstrations have been held daily for more than a month to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and respect for the election her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won last November.

The army took power citing fraud in the ballot - an accusation rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised another election, but without giving a date.

The military has brushed off condemnation of its actions, as it has in past periods of army rule when outbreaks of protest were bloodily repressed.

READ: Australia halts defence ties with Myanmar, redirects aid

This time it is also under pressure from a civil disobedience movement that has crippled government business and from strikes at banks, factories and shops that shut much of Yangon on Monday.

Police are seen in front of a protester barricade during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Mar 8, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

Britain, the United States and some other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the military government.

The European Union is preparing to widen its sanctions to target army-run businesses, according to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters.

Thailand's state broadcaster PBS said areas had been set aside along the border with Myanmar to house any refugees fleeing the unrest.

Source: AGENCIES/ec

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