Myanmar coup: UN calls for release of ‘trapped’ protesters

Police officers search for hiding demonstratorsMore than 200 people are thought to be trapped in the Sanchaung district

The UN has appealed to the military in Myanmar for the safe release of hundreds of protesters believed to be trapped inside an apartment block.

Security forces are thought to have cornered the group of about 200 people in a district of Yangon since Monday.

The UN Human Rights Office said the group had been protesting peacefully and should be allowed to leave.

Mass protests have been seen across Myanmar since the military seized power on 1 February.

More than 54 people have been killed by security forces in demonstrations so far.

According to the UN, the group were blocked from leaving a four-street area in the Sanchaung area of the city on Monday.

Explosions have been heard from the area, believed to be the sound of stun grenades used by the military.

UN chief Antonio Guterres was calling for “maximum restraint” and the “safe release of all without violence or arrests”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Many of those trapped are women who were peacefully marching in commemoration of International Women’s Day,” he said.

The British Embassy also called for the protesters to be freed.

In Yangon, huge numbers of people gathered on the streets, defying a curfew, in an attempt to distract security forces. They were heard chanting “Free the students in Sanchaung”.

Security forces fired guns and used stun grenades in an attempt to disperse them, Reuters news agency reports.

It’s thought that three people died in demonstrations across the country on Monday. Protesters have been taking to the streets for the past month calling for an end to military rule and the release of the country’s elected government leaders – including Aung San Suu Kyi – who were overthrown and detained in the coup.

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Myanmar in profile

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, Myanmar’s army responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
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