Yangon – A key aide to Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested today, days after a coup that has sparked outrage and calls by US President Joe Biden for the generals to relinquish power.
The arrest came after the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city were filled for a third night with the sound of people banging pots and honking car horns, voicing their opposition to the coup.
The military seized power on Monday, detaining Suu Kyi and president Win Myint as they ended the country’s 10-year dalliance with democracy that had followed decades of oppressive junta rule.
Win Htein, considered Suu Kyi’s right-hand man, “was arrested from his daughter’s house where he was staying at midnight (in Yangon),” said Kyi Toe, a press officer for the National League of Democracy.
The 79-year-old NLD stalwart is a longtime political prisoner, who has spent long stretches of time in and out for detention for campaigning against military rule.
Ahead of his arrest, Win Htein had told local English-language media that the military putsch was “not wise”, and that its leaders “have taken (the country) in the wrong direction”.
“Everyone in the country should oppose as much as they can the actions they are seeking to take us back to zero by destroying our government,” he told Frontier Myanmar in the coup’s aftermath.
Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since Monday.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Yangon-based group that monitors political arrests in Myanmar, more than 130 officials and lawmakers have been detained in relation to the coup.
Telecom providers in the country have also been ordered to throttle Facebook, the main means of accessing the internet and communication for millions of people in Myanmar.
‘I can’t accept this coup’
With Facebook stifled, more Myanmar people have moved to Twitter in recent days or started using VPN services to bypass the blockade.
Hashtags opposing the coup, including #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar and #RespectOurVotes, were trending on Twitter in Myanmar today, with more than seven million posts citing them.
A so-called Civil Disobedience Movement has gathered steam online, calling on the public to voice opposition every night by banging pots and clanging cymbals to show their anger.
At 8pm yesterday, a cacophony of noise rose from the neighbourhoods of Yangon, with cars honking on the streets to join the chorus of dissent.
“I haven’t been able to sleep or eat since the coup,” Yangon resident Win Bo told AFP, adding that he was “a frontliner” during the 1988 uprising.
That pro-democracy movement ended in a bloody crackdown, killing thousands of protesters and monks who were campaigning against the junta.
“Now I am facing it again,” he said. “I can’t accept this coup. I want to do an armed revolution if possible.”
So far, no large-scale protests have happened, though small pockets of dissent have popped up, with medical doctors choosing to wear red ribbons — NLD’s colour.
About 70 NLD MPs yesterday convened a symbolic parliament at their compound in Naypyidaw, signing a pledge that they would serve the duty of the people.
‘Refrain from violence’
The putsch has drawn condemnation globally.
Yesterday, US President Joe 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,” Biden said.
He spoke hours after his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the White House was “looking at specific targeted sanctions both on individuals and on entities controlled by the military that enrich the military.”
He did not give further details.
The United Nations Security Council took a softer tack, voicing yesterday “deep concern” over the military coup — a step down from a draft Tuesday that had condemned it.
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 said today it was terminating 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. — AFP