Top Suu Kyi assistant arrested as protests grow against Myanmar’s coup

A key aid to the ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi became the last senior official arrested on Friday, days after an outrageous military coup and urges US President Joe Biden to relinquish power.

The arrest of Win Htein, who is considered to be Suu Kyi’s right hand man, came after the streets of Myanmar’s largest city were filled for a third night with people hitting pots and honking car horns in opposition to Monday’s coup.

On Friday, dozens of teachers at Yangon’s Dagon University hosted a rally showing a three-fingered greeting borrowed from Hong Kong and Thailand’s democracy movements and sang a popular revolutionary song.

The military imprisoned de facto leader Suu Kyi and President Win Myint early Monday, ending the country’s ten-year alliance with democracy that had followed decades of oppressive junta rule.

Win Htein, a veteran of Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy (NLD), was arrested at his daughter’s house, said Kyi Toe, a party press chief.

The 79-year-old NLD supporter has spent long distances in and out of prison campaigning against military rule.

Win Htein told the Myanmar-language service of Britain’s BBC radio in a conversation early on Friday that he was imprisoned for rebellion, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

“They do not like what I have talked about. They are afraid of what I say,” he told the BBC.

Before his arrest, Win Htein told local media that the military coup was “not wise” and that its leaders had taken the country “in the wrong direction”.

“They are trying to bring us back to zero by destroying our government,” he told Frontier Myanmar in the aftermath of the coup, urging the public to “oppose [the coup] as much as they can “.

Civil disobedience

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Yangon-based group monitoring political arrests in Myanmar, more than 130 officials and lawmakers have been detained in connection with the coup.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since Monday.

At least 14 activists and prominent pro-democracy figures have also been arrested, the AAPP said.

On Thursday, the nephew of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi – who has previously been jailed for criticizing the military – confirmed that his outspoken uncle had been picked up on the morning of the coup.

“I think they arrested all the dissidents who could share the right information with the public,” said Kaung Satt Naing.

Telecom providers in the country have been ordered to reduce access to Facebook, the most important means of communication and access to the Internet for millions of people in Myanmar.

With Facebook suffocated, more Myanmar people have moved to Twitter in recent days or started using VPN services to circumvent the blockade.

Hashtags that opposed the coup – including #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar and #RespectOurVotes – trends on Friday with more than seven million posts quoting them.

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A so-called Civil Disobedience Movement has gathered steam online and urges the public to express opposition every night by slamming pots and clinging cymbals to show their anger.

At 8 pm on Thursday, a cacophony erupted from the districts of Yangon, with cars honking to join the dissent choir.

“I have not been able to sleep or eat since the coup,” Yang Bo of Yang Win told AFP, adding that he was “a front line” during the 1988 uprising.

The democratic movement ended in a bloody attack that killed thousands of protesters and monks fighting against the junta.

“Now I face it again,” he said. “I can not accept this coup. I want to make an armed revolution if possible.”

To date, no large-scale protests have been seen, although small pockets of disagreement have emerged, with doctors wearing red ribbons, the color of the NLD.

On Thursday, about 70 NLD members convened a symbolic parliament at their Naypyidaw assembly and signed a pledge to serve the people.

‘Give up the power’

The coup has drawn condemnation globally, but not from nearby heavyweight China.

On Thursday, President Biden reiterated his call for generals to reverse the course.

“The Burmese military should relinquish the power they have seized, release advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift restrictions on telecommunications and refrain from violence,” Biden said.

He spoke hours after his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the White House “looked at specific targeted sanctions against both individuals and units controlled by the military that enrich the military.”

He did not give further details.

The UN Security Council took a softer line and expressed “deep concern” – a step down from a draft Tuesday that had condemned the coup.

Diplomats said veto-wielding China and Russia, Myanmar’s main supporters at the UN, had asked for more time on Tuesday to fine-tune the council’s response.

Multinational corporations working with Myanmar’s military-affiliated companies have been urged to cut the ribbon as a way of pressuring generals.

Japanese beer giant Kirin said on Friday that it ended its joint venture with a military-owned conglomerate. Kirin has been under scrutiny for some time over its ties to Myanmar’s army-owned breweries.

( Jowharwith AFP)