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Myanmar army deploys troops, tanks as UN warns against violence

Military vehicles stationed near a building in downtown Yangon on February 15, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Anti-coup protests have gained traction in cities across Myanmar despite the junta's efforts to clamp down on protesters, who are demanding a return of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Media reports said on Monday that the junta ordered an hours-long nationwide internet shutdown and deployed troops and tanks around the country as it steadily intensifies its crackdown on protesters.

Since the military seized power two weeks ago, defiant demonstrators have been on the streets in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, and other cities, demanding a return to a democratic government.

Th internet shutdown came hours after live-stream footage shared on social media showed military vehicles and soldiers moving through some parts of the country. There were also reports of security forces firing shots to disperse some protesters in the northern state of Kachin.

The “information blackout” lasted nearly eight hours, according to Monitoring group NetBlocks.

It reported that internet services were cut during the night and began resuming around the start of the working day.

UN chief 'deeply concerned'

In a statement late on Sunday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation in Myanmar.

“He urges the military and the police to respect the citizens’ right for peaceful gatherings and not to persecute them. Reports of continued violence, intimidation and humiliation by security agencies are unacceptable,” the statement said.

The UN chief also called on military leaders to “urgently” allow Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener to visit the country as an independent observer “to assess the situation first hand.”

The UN special rapporteur for Myanmar also called on the junta to refrain from violence, warning that they would be held accountable.

“It's as if the generals have declared war on the people of Myanmar,” Tom Andrews wrote on Twitter. “Attention generals: You WILL be held accountable.”

Andrews added that the junta's escalated efforts to clamp down on the burgeoning civil disobedience campaign was a sign of “desperation.”

For the first time since the coup, the United States urged its citizens in Myanmar to “shelter-in-place” during the night-time curfew.

In a joint statement, the US, British and European Union ambassadors urged the junta to avoid violence and not harm civilians.

“We call on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government,” they said.

The junta, meanwhile, has issued arrest warrants for several anti-coup activists and warned the public against hiding them.

Suu Kyi remanded in custody until Wednesday 

Suu Kyi’s lawyer told media that the ousted leader has been remanded in custody until Wednesday, not Monday as previously thought.

Her detention was due to expire on Monday but her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said a judge in the capital had said she was remanded until February 17.

The junta arrested Suu Kyi and her loyalists on February 1 over accusations of voter fraud in favor of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the November 2020 elections.

Before her arrest, Suu Kyi, a general’s daughter, had formed a strong alliance with senior military leaders and had been supportive of the military despite its genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.

She defended the widely-condemned humanitarian crimes against the Rohingya at the United Nations top court in The Hague in December 2019.

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