Friday, 16 April 2021

Myanmar frees detained BBC journalist as protests continue

 REUTERS/Stringer

NAYPVITAW – The BBC said that a journalist from its Burmese-language service was released by authorities in Myanmar but gave no details, as protesters in the Southeast Asian nation continued their broad civil disobedience movement against last month’s military coup.

The journalist, Aung Thura, was detained on March 19 by men who appeared to be plainclothes security agents while reporting outside a court in the capital of Naypyitaw.

Arrests of media workers have been part of the junta’s intensifying efforts to choke off information about resistance to the February 1 coup. Some 40 journalists have been arrested since the coup, half of whom are still in detention – including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press – according to the Myanmar-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

On Monday, lawmakers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations urged regional leaders to meet and devise a “strong and decisive response” to increased violence against protesters by Myanmar’s military. The lawmakers urged the 10-nation bloc to send a delegation alongside the U.N. special envoy to Myanmar to help negotiate a “democratic and human rights-based solution.”

ASEAN has a policy of non-interference in each other’s affairs, but some regional leaders have rebuked the violence and urged restraint in Myanmar.

“The Myanmar army is killing people every day. Statements are welcome, but are useless against the military’s bullets,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker who heads the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights group.

Since the military seized power, many citizens from teachers to doctors, traders, and railway workers have joined a civil disobedience movement that uses widespread boycotts, strikes, and other actions in an attempt to force a return to a civilian government.

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