A BBC journalist, Aung Thura, who was arrested last Friday in Myanmar, has been freed, the company said on Monday.

 

According to a report by the AFP, Thura, a journalist with the BBC’s Burmese service, was detained by men in plainclothes while reporting outside a court in the capital Naypyidaw last week.

The broadcaster, who confirmed his release in a news story on the website, however, did not provide further details about the incident.

 

Myanmar’s Junta (military) is cracking down on journalists covering mass protests, with dozens, including foreigners, being detained since the February 1 coup.

 

The crackdown comes as security forces escalate deadly violence against protesters, who have been coming to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to demand the release of elected government leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who was overthrown in the coup.

 

Demonstrators on Monday took to the streets for fresh anti-coup protests against the military.

 

More than 2,600 people have been arrested and 250 killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group that has warned fatalities could be even higher.

 

Scores of people, including teachers, marched on Monday through the pre-dawn streets of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, some carrying placards calling for UN intervention in the crisis.

 

Mandalay has seen some of the worst violence of the crackdown and recorded eight more deaths on Sunday, a medical source told AFP, adding that as many as 50 people were injured.

 

Machine guns rang out late into the night across the city of 1.7 million.

 

“People were really scared and felt insecure the whole night,” a doctor told AFP by phone.

 

To protest the brutality of the crackdown, a group of doctors in Mandalay staged a “placard only” demonstration by lining up signs in the street, Voice of Myanmar reported.

 

There were also early morning protests in parts of Yangon, the commercial capital and largest city, where drivers honked their horns in support of the anti-coup movement.

 

Residents in Yangon’s Hlaing township released hundreds of red helium balloons with posters calling for a UN intervention to stop atrocities, according to local media.

 

International concern has been growing over the junta’s brutal approach as the death toll climbs, with a senior UN expert warning the military is likely committing “crimes against humanity”.

 

But so far the generals have shown little sign of heeding calls for restraint as they struggle to quell the unrest.

 

In a fresh bid to step up the pressure, the European Union is expected on Monday to hit 11 junta cadres with sanctions, in the form of travel bans and asset freezes.

 

The United States and Britain have already taken similar steps.

 

Myanmar’s regional neighbours have also weighed in, with Indonesia and Malaysia calling for an emergency summit of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss the crisis.

 

Following the call, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan embarked on a whistle-stop diplomatic tour including meetings in Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

 

On the commercial front, French energy giant EDF announced that a $1.5-billion hydropower dam project in Myanmar had been suspended in response to the coup.

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