The laws limit the arrest of criminals or the inspection of private property by security forces without judicial permission
Myanmar’s army on Saturday suspended laws constraining security forces from detaining suspects or searching private property without court approval, reports Reuters.
They also ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests against this month’s coup, including Min Ko Naing, who has been a leading pro-democracy activist since bloodily suppressed protests in 1988.
The announcement was made on the eighth day of country-wide demonstrations against the February 1 takeover and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which halted an unsteady transition to democracy that began in 2011.
A statement signed by military ruler General Min Aung Hlaing ordered the suspension of three sections of the laws “protecting the privacy and security of the citizens”, which had been introduced after Myanmar opened up from half a century of army rule.
The sections suspended include the requirement for a court order to detain prisoners beyond 24 hours and constraints on security forces’ ability to enter – and if need be damage – private property to search it or make arrests. The suspensions also free authorities to spy on all communications.
However, the statement gave no specific end date.
The coup has prompted the biggest street protests in more than a decade and has been denounced by Western countries, with the US announcing some sanctions on the ruling generals and other countries also considering measures.
Before Myanmar began democratic reforms, it was one of the world’s most isolated countries. In another echo of the old era, the junta reintroduced a requirement for villages and wards in towns to register anyone staying overnight.
As anti-coup protests sprang up again in the biggest city Yangon, the capital Naypyitaw and elsewhere on Saturday, the army said arrest warrants had been issued for seven high profile critics of military rule over their comments on social media.
People should inform the police if they spot any of the seven people named and will be punished if they shelter them, the army’s True News information team said in a statement.
It said cases had been filed under section 505 (b) of the penal code - which was often used by previous juntas and imposes a sentence of up to two years for comments that could cause alarm or "threaten tranquility."
Min Ko Naing, 58, who was imprisoned for most of the time between 1988 and 2012, has been one of the most prominent figures in encouraging the protests and a civil disobedience movement, sending messages of encouragement almost daily.
On Friday, he had warned against a wave of night-time arrests and urged communities to organize to prevent them.
"Elders and youths should cooperate and keep in touch," he said in a video message.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach him for comment.
Others with warrants against them included "Jimmy" Kyaw Min Yu - also a veteran of the 1988 student uprising - singer "Lin Lin" Htwe Lin Ko and Myo Yan Naung Thein, a political analyst, and Maung Maung Aye, an NLD-supporting television presenter, and writer Insein Aung Soe.
"I am so proud to have a warrant issued along with Min Ko Naing. Catch me if you can," said the last, Ei Pencilo, to her more than 1.6 million followers on Facebook.
Like several of those named, she worked with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide in a November election the army alleged to be tainted with fraud - an accusation dismissed by the electoral commission.
The United Nations human rights office said on Friday more than 350 people have been arrested in Myanmar since the coup by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing, who said he acted because of election malpractice, reports AFP.
Journalist Shwe Yee Win, who had reported on opposition to the coup in the western town of Pathein, was taken away by police and soldiers on Thursday and has not been heard from sinc. her TimeAyeyar news website and her mother said.
"I am really worried," said Thein Thein, now looking after her daughter's one-year-old child.
The government did not respond to requests for comment.
Anger in Myanmar has been fuelled by videos showing more arrests of government critics - including a doctor who was part of the civil disobedience movement. Some arrests have taken place during the hours of darkness.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners voiced concern.
"Family members are left with no knowledge of the charges, location, or condition of their loved ones. These are not isolated incidents, and night-time raids are targeting dissenting voices," it said in a statement.
Suu Kyi, for decades the standard-bearer of the fight for democracy in Myanmar, faces charges of illegally importing and using six walkie-talkie radios.
NLD press officer Kyi Toe said on Facebook that she was healthy under house arrest in the capital Naypyitaw.
The coup and detentions have prompted anger from Western countries and the 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Friday calling on Myanmar to release detainees and refrain from using violence against protesters.
The United States this week began imposing sanctions on the ruling generals and some businesses linked to them.
Airline staff, health workers, engineers and school teachers were among groups that joined the protest marches on Saturday and that have rallied to a civil disobedience campaign that has shut down a swath of government business.
Protesters have ignored a call from junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to stop.