News World Myanmar frees BBC reporter, demonstrations continue
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Myanmar frees BBC reporter, demonstrations continue

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The BBC says a journalist from its Burmese-language service has been released by authorities in Myanmar as protesters in the country 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 plain-clothes 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.

The Myanmar-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says 40 journalists have been arrested since the coup, half of whom are still in detention.

Gunfire rang out repeatedly on Monday local time in the second-biggest city, Mandalay, in central Myanmar as security forces clashed with protesters.

Some demonstrators set up road barricades and burned piles of debris to provide cover from live ammunition.

Others used an oversized slingshot to hurl chunks of concrete at security forces.

Images taken at the protests showed a man with an apparent head injury being carried away by protesters.

Unconfirmed reports and photographs posted on social media suggested several protestors were killed and there were numerous injuries.

A man carries a sandbag to erect a makeshift barricade, as security forces staged a crackdown on demonstrations by protesters against the military coup. Photo: Getty

The violence followed a night when bursts of heavy machine-gun fire echoed through the city.

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 by Myanmar’s military against protesters.

The lawmakers urged the 10-member bloc to send a delegation alongside the UN 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 MP 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.

The junta has responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown and sought to limit information reaching the outside world.

Earlier on Monday, protesters sent hundreds of red balloons into the air in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, in support of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was ousted in the coup and detained.

Many also wore red shirts, the colour of her National League for Democracy party.