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Second NLD official dies in custody as protests continue across Myanmar

Second NLD official dies in custody as protests continue across Myanmar

Anti-coup protesters retreat after riot policemen fire teargas in Yangon, Myanmar on Mar 9, 2021. (Photo: AP Images)

YANGON: An official from deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) died in custody after he was arrested early on Tuesday (Mar 9), a former member of parliament said.

Ba Myo Thein, an MP of the dissolved upper house, told Reuters that the party official, Zaw Myat Linn, was arrested around 1.30am. He is the second official from the NLD to die in custody.

"Now, the relatives are trying to retrieve the body at the Military Hospital," he said.

Sporadic anti-junta protests on Tuesday were quickly snuffed out by Myanmar security forces, after hundreds of young activists who had been trapped overnight in a Yangon neighbourhood were able to get out.

Western powers and the United Nations had called on Myanmar's military rulers to allow the youngsters to leave after fears for their safety as troops moved in.

The army takeover and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1 has brought the Southeast Asian nation to a near-standstill. Daily protests are being staged across the country, and security forces are cracking down harshly.

READ: Myanmar protesters able to leave Yangon district after being trapped by security forces

More than 60 protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 detained, an advocacy group said.

Scattered protests were held in Yangon and other towns across Myanmar on Tuesday but were quickly broken up by security forces using tear gas and stun grenades.

At least two people were wounded, one by a gunshot, in the town of Mohnyin in the north, local media said.

READ: 3 protesters killed in Myanmar; shops and factories closed as workers go on strike

Thousands of people defied a night time curfew on Monday to take to the streets of Yangon in support of the youths in the Sanchaung district, where they had been holding a daily protest against the coup.

Protesters hold up the three finger salute at the Sittaung River during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on Mar 9, 2021. (Photo: AFP/STR) For more than a month, protesters in Myanmar have demanded the return of democracy AFP/STR

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

By nightfall, security forces had sealed off a block of streets in Yangon with around 200 protesters still inside, according to the UN rights office, prompting alarm from diplomatic missions and calls for their safe release.

Sharp loud bangs were heard coming from the area, although it was not clear if the sounds were caused by gunfire or stun grenades.

Security forces started searching apartments after a nightly Internet shutdown blanketed the country at 1am local time, residents told AFP, particularly those flying the red and gold flag of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party on their balconies.

One resident said her home - which did not have any protesters hiding inside - was searched.

"They searched every building on Kyun Taw road - they destroyed the locks of apartment buildings if they were locked downstairs," said the resident.

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.

She said she would 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.

People look at a police vehicle after Sanchaung district was searched on Mar 8, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

READ: Myanmar police fire on protesters in ancient former capital Bagan

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had 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.

An advocacy rights group said around 50 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after police searched houses.

Sanchaung - a bustling township known for its cafes, bars and restaurants - has transformed since the protests began, with makeshift barricades of bamboo, sandbags, tables and barbed wire set up by protesters in an effort to slow security forces.

Tuesday morning saw brisk sales from food vendors on the streets.

"We need to finish selling our goods before 9am - there will be a crackdown again on the streets," said one.

A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

State television MRTV said earlier: "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."

AMBASSADOR IN LONDON BACKS PROTESTS

The United States criticised the junta after an announcement on Monday that five independent media companies had been stripped of their licences. The five - Mizzima, Myanmar Now, 7-Day, DVB and Khit Thit Media - have been active in covering protests against the coup.

"We have very strongly condemned the junta for the, in many cases, violent crackdowns on those peacefully taking to the streets and on those who are just doing their jobs, including independent journalists who have been swept up," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

READ: Drawing praise, Myanmar's ambassador to UK calls for release of Aung San Suu Kyi

READ: Unions call for total strike in Myanmar; NLD party official dies in custody

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

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 have shut much of Yangon this week.

In a diplomatic blow to the junta, 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.

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

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

Source: AGENCIES/ga

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