Myanmar protesters block railway line; military promises new election

They denounce takeover by military, which is yet to announce date for new election

MYANMAR : Protesters opposed to Myanmar's military coup blocked train services between Yangon and a southern city yesterday.

Despite the deployment of armoured vehicles and soldiers in some major cities on the weekend, protesters have kept up their campaign to denounce the Feb 1 takeover and demand the release of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.

Protesters milled onto a sun-baked stretch of railway track waving placards in support of the disobedience movement, stopping the service between Yangon and the southern city of Mawlamyine, live images broadcast by media showed.

"Release our leaders immediately," and "People's power, give it back," the crowd chanted.

Crowds also gathered in two places in the main city of Yangon - at a traditional protest site near the main university campus and at the central bank, where protesters hoped to press staff to join the civil disobedience movement.

About 30 Buddhist monks protested against the coup with prayers.

The turnout at protests this week has been smaller than the hundreds of thousands who joined earlier demonstrations, but opposition to the army takeover that halted a decade of unsteady transition to democracy remains widespread.

Myanmar's military junta guaranteed that it would hold an election and hand over power, denied that its ouster of an elected government was a coup or that its leaders were detained, and accused protesters of violence and intimidation.

"Our objective is to hold an election and hand power to the winning party," Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, said at the junta's first news conference since the coup.

The military has not given a date for a new election but has imposed a state of emergency for one year.

He said the military would not hold power for long.

"We guarantee ... that the election will be held," he told the nearly two-hour news conference, which the military broadcast live over Facebook, a platform it has banned.

The general dismissed the suggestion that Ms Suu Kyi, 75, and the president Win Myint were in detention, saying they were at home for their security while the law took its course. - REUTERS