Tatmadaw Make More Arrests

People take part in a noise campaign on a street after calls for protest against the military coup emerged on social media, in Yangon on 5 February, 2021. (AFP Photo)

Hundreds of teachers and students protested at a Myanmar university Friday as the military widened a dragnet against officials ousted in a coup that has drawn global condemnation and the threat of new sanctions.

The rally took place after the arrest of Win Htein, a key aide to de facto leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since being detained along with president Win Myint early Monday. 

A representative of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) said Friday she was being held at her residence in Naypyidaw, the country's capital, and was "in good health". 

"As far as I know, she's under house arrest and has not been taken to another place yet," NLD press officer Kyi Toe told the media. 

Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters he has not had contact with her yet. 

On Friday, around 200 teachers and students at Yangon's Dagon University staged a rally where they displayed a three-finger salute borrowed from Thailand's democracy movements and sang a popular revolutionary song.

"We have to resist this dictatorship," lecturer Win Win Maw said. 

"If all civil servants participate in this movement, it's not easy to operate this government system."  

Students chanted "Long live Mother Suu" and carried red flags, the colour of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party. 

A similar protest took place across town in Yangon University. 

In the capital Naypyidaw, dozens of employees from several government ministries posed for group photographs wearing red ribbons and flashing the democracy symbol.

Hours before Friday's university protest, Win Htein was arrested at his daughter's house, said Kyi Toe.

The 79-year-old NLD stalwart, considered Suu Kyi's right-hand man, has spent long stretches in detention for campaigning against military rule.

Speaking to local media ahead of his arrest, Win Htein called on people in the country to "oppose (the coup) as much as they can".

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Yangon-based group that monitors political arrests in Myanmar, more than 130 officials and lawmakers have been detained. 

Telecom providers in the country were ordered to cut access to Facebook, the main means of communication and accessing the internet for millions of people in Myanmar.

'Hope Broken'

With Facebook stifled, more have moved to Twitter in recent days or started using VPN services to bypass the blockade.

A so-called Civil Disobedience Movement has gathered pace online, calling on the public to voice opposition every night by banging pots and clanging cymbals to show their anger.

"I feel our hope is broken by the military after they seized power," said food vendor Thazin Oo, whose mobile phone case has a photo of Suu Kyi. 

So far, at least 14 activists and prominent pro-democracy figures have been arrested, according to the AAPP. 

The nephew of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi – who was previously jailed for criticising the military –confirmed Friday his outspoken uncle had been picked up on the morning of the coup.

"I think they arrested all dissidents who could share the right information to the public," said Kaung Satt Naing.

Police in Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city, detained more than 20 people for banging pots and pans. They were sentenced Friday to seven days in prison for violating a public disorder law. 

Another four university students from Mandalay were charged Friday for protesting at a small rally the day before without permission and breaking coronavirus rules. 

As they were escorted out of court in chains, they flashed a defiant three-finger salute to the waiting media. 

Some 300 MPs also held a virtual meeting Friday to convene an unofficial "parliament committee" in defiance of military rule, according to the NLD. 

'Refrain From Violence'

The coup has drawn condemnation globally.

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

"The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions in telecommunications, and refrain from violence," he said.

His National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also said the White House was "looking at specific targeted sanctions" on military-linked entities.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council took a softer line, voicing "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 Tuesday to finesse the council's response.

There have been calls on multinational companies working with Myanmar's military-linked businesses to cut ties as a way to pressure the generals.

Japanese beer giant Kirin – long under scrutiny over its ties to Myanmar's army-owned breweries – said Friday it was terminating a joint venture with a military-owned conglomerate. – AFP