Myanmar army suspends laws limiting forces, orders arrest of protest backers
Myanmar's junta on Saturday suspended laws restricting security forces from detaining suspects or searching private property without court approval and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests against this month's coup.
The military coup and subsequent detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi halted an unsteady transition to democracy that began in 2011.
A series of announcements came as country-wide demonstrations against the February 1 takeover entered its second week.
An order signed by military ruler General Min Aung Hlaing suspended three sections of laws "protecting the privacy and security of the citizens", which had been introduced during the gradual liberalisation.
Those sections include the requirement for a court order to detain prisoners beyond 24 hours and constraints on security forces' ability to enter private property to search it or make arrests. The suspensions also free up spying on communications.
The coup has prompted the biggest street protests in more than a decade and has been denounced by Western countries, with the United States announcing some sanctions on the ruling generals and other countries also considering measures.
As anti-coup protests sprang up again in the biggest city Yangon, the capital Naypyitaw and elsewhere on Saturday, the army said arrest warrants had been issued for seven high profile critics of military rule over their comments on social media.
People should inform the police if they spot any of those named and will be punished if they shelter them, the army's True News information team said in a statement.
Others with warrants against them included "Jimmy" Kyaw Min Yu, also a veteran of the 1988 student uprising, and singer "Lin Lin" Htwe Lin Ko.
"I am so proud to have a warrant issued along with Min Ko Naing. Catch me if you can," said Ei Pencilo, to her more than 1.6 million followers on Facebook.
Protests in support of Suu Kyi and the election sprang up across Myanmar again on Saturday in spite of a junta call for people to avoid mass gatherings due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The junta also appealed to civil servants who have been following the civil disobedience campaign to return to work, with a threat of possible disciplinary action against those who do not.
The coup and detentions have prompted anger from Western countries and the 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Friday calling on Myanmar to release detainees and refrain from using violence against protesters.
The United States this week began imposing sanctions on the ruling generals and some businesses linked to them.
Earlier in the day, protesters in Yangon, the country's biggest city, again congregated at Hleden intersection, a key crossroads from which groups fanned out to other points, including the embassies of the United States and China. They marched despite an order banning gatherings of five or more people.
Spontaneous neighbourhood watch groups mobilised to thwart arrests of anti-coup activists and the UN demanded the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Also read | Myanmar protesters block arrests as demonstrations enter second week
More than 320 people have been arrested since last week's coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.
Suu Kyi has not been seen since her detention nearly two weeks ago, though NLD official Kyi Toe said on Saturday she was in Naypyidaw and still in "good health".
(with inputs from agencies)