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Myanmar official dies in custody as junta cracks down on media

An official from deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) died in custody after he was arrested early Tuesday — the second party figure to die in detention in two days — as security forces broke up street protests against the military junta.

Official was 2nd from Aung San Suu Kyi's party to die in detention in last 2 days

A protester in Yangon holds a poster featuring Myanmar armed forces chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing during a demonstration against the military coup. (AFP/Getty Images)

An official from deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) died in custody after he was arrested early on Tuesday — the second party figure to die in detention in two days — as security forces broke up street protests against the military junta.

Police also cracked down on independent media, raiding the offices of two news outlets and detaining two journalists.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army ousted Suu Kyi's elected government in a coup on Feb. 1, detained her and other NLD officials, and set up a ruling junta of generals.

The NLD's Zaw Myat Linn died in custody on Tuesday after he was arrested in Yangon around 1:30 a.m. local time, said Ba Myo Thein, a member of the dissolved upper house of parliament.

"He's been participating continuously in the protests," Ba Myo Thein said. The cause of death was not clear.

A protester gets Coca-Cola poured on his face in an attempt to diminish the effects of tear gas during a demonstration in Yangon. (AFP/Getty Images)

In a Facebook live broadcast before he was detained, Zaw Myat Linn urged people to continue fighting the army, "even if it costs our lives."

"Their power must never last," he said.

Neither the military nor the police responded to calls for comment.

Tear gas, stun grenades used to disperse protesters

Zaw Myat Linn is the second NLD official to have died in custody in the last two days. Khin Maung Latt, who had worked as a campaign manager for an NLD MP elected in 2020, died after he was arrested on Saturday night.

More than 1,900 people have been arrested across the country since the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Police broke up scattered demonstrations in Yangon — the former capital and still the commercial hub — and other towns across Myanmar with tear gas and stun grenades on Tuesday.

This still image from social media video shows anti-coup demonstrators in Loikaw, Myanmar, fleeing tear gas. (Mizzima Burmese/Reuters)

As night fell, soldiers fired weapons in different districts of the coastal town of Dawei, while at least two people were wounded earlier in the day, one by a gunshot, in the town of Mohnyin in the north, local media said.

Witnesses said two journalists from Kamayut, an independent media company, were arrested, while the military raided the offices of Mizzima News in Yangon.

Live footage posted to social media also showed a raid after nightfall on the offices of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

A day earlier, the junta stripped Mizzima, DVB, and three other outlets of their licences. They had all been active in covering protests against the coup.

At least 35 journalists have been arrested since the Feb. 1 coup, Myanmar Now reported, of which 19 have been released.

The U.S State Department said it "strongly condemned the junta for the ... violent crackdowns on those peacefully taking to the streets and on those who are just doing their jobs, including independent journalists who have been swept up."

Daily protests against the coup are being staged across the country and security forces have cracked down harshly. More than 60 protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 detained, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group, has said.

Ambassador to U.K. recalled

International powers have condemned the takeover, which derailed a slow transition to democracy in a country that has been ruled by the military for long periods since independence from Britain in 1947.

The army has justified the coup by saying that a November election won by the NLD was marred by fraud — a claim rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election, but has not said when that might be held.

The junta said on Tuesday it was recalling its ambassador to the United Kingdom a day after he urged them in a statement to release Suu Kyi, state media reported.

Anti-coup demonstrators in Yangon spray fire extinguishers over a barricade. (Reuters)

The MRTV news channel said Kyaw Swar Min, one of several ambassadors to publicly break from the military line, had released the statement without following orders.

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.

It is also under pressure from a civil disobedience movement that has crippled government business and from strikes at banks, factories and shops that have shut much of Yangon this week.

The European Union is preparing to widen its sanctions to target army-run businesses, according to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters.

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