WRAPUP 1-UN warns Myanmar against harsh response to protesters


Feb 16 (Reuters) – The United Nations special envoy haswarned Myanmar’s army of “severe consequences” for any harshresponse to protesters demonstrating against this month’s coupin a call with the military leadership, a U.N. spokesman said.

Despite the deployment of armoured vehicles and soldiers tosome major cities at the weekend, protesters demonstrated againon Monday to denounce the Feb. 1 takeover and demand the releaseof detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.

Protests on Monday were smaller than the hundreds ofthousands who had joined earlier demonstrations but broke out inmany parts of the Southeast Asian country, where the coup hashalted a decade of unsteady transition to democracy.

Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener spoke on Monday tothe deputy head of the junta in what has become a rare channelof communication between Myanmar’s army and the outside world.

“Ms. Schraner Burgener has reinforced that the right ofpeaceful assembly must fully be respected and that demonstratorsare not subjected to reprisals,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq saidat the United Nations.

“She has conveyed to the Myanmar military that the world iswatching closely, and any form of heavy-handed response islikely to have severe consequences.”

In an account of the meeting, Myanmar’s army said juntaNumber Two, Soe Win, had discussed the administration’s plansand information on “the true situation of what’s happening inMyanmar”.

In addition to urging the army to respect human rights anddemocratic institutions, Schraner Burgener had also warnedagainst internet blackouts, the U.N. spokesman said.


The army cut off the internet for a second consecutive nightearly on Tuesday, raising concerns among coup opponents,particularly after the army suspended legal constraints on itssearch and detention powers.

“There is suspicion this blackout was to commit unjustactivities, including arbitrary arrests,” said the localAssistance Association for Political Prisoners group, which hasrecorded 426 arrests between the coup and Monday.

The unrest has revived memories of bloody outbreaks ofopposition to almost half a century of direct army rule thatended in 2011 when the military began a process of withdrawingfrom civilian politics.

The army said late on Monday that protests were harmingstability and had left people in fear.

“People are delighted to have the security patrols and thesecurity forces will conduct them day and night,” its True Newsinformation team said.

Violence during the protests has been limited compared tothat under previous juntas, but police have opened fire severaltimes to disperse protesters, including on Monday.

One woman who was hit by police fire in the capitalNaypyitaw last week is not expected to survive.

As well as the demonstrations in towns and cities, a civildisobedience movement has brought strikes that are cripplingmany functions of government.

The army took power alleging fraud in a Nov. 8 generalelection in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy partyhad won a landslide. The electoral commission had dismissed thearmy’s complaints.

Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest forher efforts to end military rule and is again being kept underguard at her home in Naypyitaw.

She now faces charges of illegally importing sixwalkie-talkie radios and is being held on remand untilWednesday.

The coup has prompted an angry response from Westerncountries and the United States has already set some sanctionsagainst the ruling generals.

But China has taken a softer approach, arguing stabilityshould be the priority in its neighbour, where it has closecontacts with the military.(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)


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