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Myanmar security forces detain prominent anti-coup leader

This handout photo taken and released on April 15, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei's Launglone township. (Via AFP)

In the latest crackdown on protests, security forces have detained one of the main leaders of the campaign against military rule during an anti-coup rally in central Myanmar.

Friends and colleagues said on Thursday that Wai Moe Naing, a 25-year-old Muslim, was arrested as he was setting off to lead a motorcycle rally in the central town of Monywa, about 700 km north of the main city of Yangon.

“Our brother Wai Moe Naing was arrested. His motorbike was hit by an unmarked police car,” media outlets quoted Win Zaw Khiang, a member of a protest organizing group, as saying.

Some colleagues said they feared for Wai’s safety, who has emerged as one of the most high-profile leaders of opposition to the coup.

Some groups and activists said they were following his case and urged that all detainees be allowed proper health care and their human rights be respected.

Another protest leader, Tayzar San, vowed to keep up demonstrations despite the ongoing crackdown and detentions.

“We have to continue the fight by doubling our energy for Ko Wai Moe Naing, for the truth, for the present and future of the country.”

The town of Monywa has been one of main centers of the campaign with big rallies day after day and repeated crackdowns by security forces.

In the main city of Yangon, security forces detained Myo Aye, director of the Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar, who has played a major role in organizing protests.

Earlier on Thursday, soldiers opened fire in the second largest city of Mandalay to disperse protesting medical workers and. One man was killed and several others were wounded when security forces fired in a nearby neighborhood.

The Myanmarese military staged a coup on February 1, ousting the government of Aung San Suu Kyi and imprisoning her and other political leaders.

Since then, waves of protests have been staged, demanding the release of Myanmar's de facto leader and other detained figures, and return of power to the ousted government.

In addition to the daily protests, strikes by workers in many sectors have brought the economy to a standstill.

The military says the protests are dwindling. But the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that “rioters” have been committing an increasing number of “terrorist acts”, attacking security forces with grenades, planting “homemade mines” and starting fires.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a recent statement accused Myanmar’s military junta of committing crimes against humanity, warning that the situation in the country seemed to be heading toward a “full-blown” conflict in the wake of the February coup.

The military coup has ignited international outrage and pleas for restraint.

At least 715 civilians have been killed in the space of just 70 days since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

The human rights group says more than 3,000 people have been arrested in the period.

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