Hundreds of young Myanmar protesters captured by security forces in a Yangon district overnight have been able to escape, activists said on Tuesday, following calls from Western powers and the United Nations to leave.
Thousands of people defied a curfew to take to the streets of Myanmar’s capital to support young people in Sanchaung district, where they had protested daily against the February 1 coup.
The military takeover and arrest of the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has thrown Myanmar into chaos. Security forces have killed more than 60 protesters and detained more than 1,800 since then, a group of lawyers said.
In Sanchaung, police announced the firing of weapons and the use of stun grenades on Monday that they would check the homes of everyone outside the district and 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 welcomed the protesters,” Shar Ya Mone said by telephone, promising to continue demonstrating “until the dictatorship ends.”
Another protester posted on social media that they had been able to leave the area around 5 o’clock after the security forces withdrew.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had previously demanded “maximum restraint” and the safe release of all protesters without violence or arrests, a call repeated by US and British embassies in Myanmar.
A group of lawyers said about 50 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after police searched the house, although checks were still being carried out.
A spokesman for a junta did not respond to calls and requested comments.
State TV MRTV previously said: “The government’s patience has run out and while trying to minimize fatalities when stopping riots, most seek complete stability (and) call for more effective action against riots.”
Three protesters were killed in demonstrations in northern Myanmar and the Irrawaddy Delta on Monday, according to witnesses and local media.
Myanmar’s ambassador in London supports protests
Demonstrations have been held daily for more than a month to demand the release of Suu Kyi and respect for the election won by her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in November last year.
The army took power with reference to fraud in the vote – an accusation that was rejected by the election commission. It has promised a new election, but without specifying a date.
The military has abolished condemnation of its actions, as it has done in previous periods of military rule when outbreaks of protest were bloodily suppressed.
This time, it is also under pressure from a civil disobedience movement that has paralyzed government business and from strikes against banks, factories and shops that close much of Yangon on Monday.
In a diplomatic battle against the junta, Myanmar’s ambassador to Britain followed his UN representative and on Monday called for the release of Suu Kyi – with praise from British Foreign Secretary 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 companies, according to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters.