Myanmar security forces cornered hundreds of young protesters overnight in Yangon and threatened to hunt them down door to door as the US and UN appealed for the police and army to allow them to leave, reports Reuters.
Thousands of people defied an overnight curfew to take to the streets of Myanmar’s main city in support of the youths trapped in Sanchaung district.
The army takeover and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has plunged Myanmar into chaos. So far, security forces are reported to have killed over 60 protesters and detained more than 1,800 since then.
In Sanchaung, police announced they would search houses for people from outside the district and would punish anyone caught hiding them.
The UN office in Myanmar as well as the US and British embassies appealed to security forces to allow protesters to leave without violence or arrest but there was no sign of them withdrawing.
On Facebook, residents and the local news service posted that as of the early hours of Tuesday, 20 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after police searched houses.
Elsewhere in Yangon, thousands of people defied a curfew, chanting “Free the students in Sanchaung”, prompting security forces firing guns and throwing stun grenades to try to disperse them.
State television MRTV earlier said: “The government’s patience has run out and while trying to minimise casualties in stopping riots, most people seek complete stability and are calling for more effective measures against riots.”
Three protesters were killed in demonstrations in northern Myanmar and the Irrawaddy Delta on Monday, according to local media.
The military has brushed off condemnation of its actions, as it has in past periods of army rule when outbreaks of protest were bloodily repressed.
In a diplomatic blow to the junta, Myanmar’s ambassador to Britain followed its UN representative by calling on Monday for the release of Suu Kyi.
Britain, the US and other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the junta.
The European Union is preparing to widen its sanctions to target army-run businesses, according to diplomats and documents seen by Reuters.
Thailand’s state broadcaster PBS said areas have been set aside along the border with Myanmar to house any refugees fleeing the unrest.