Since taking ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her top allies into custody, troops have stepped up arrests of civil servants, doctors and others joining strikes demanding the generals relinquish power.

Anti-coup protesters gather outside US Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, February 13, 2021.
Anti-coup protesters gather outside US Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, February 13, 2021. (AP)

Myanmar's military junta has urged civil servants to return to work and raised the possibility of action against those who do not, the army news service said.

"Actions can be taken for breaching civil servant ethics, regulations, and failure of duty according to the... civil servant laws and code of conduct," the statement said.

The military also said it has suspended privacy laws requiring court orders for detaining people longer than 24 hours and for searching private property and surveillance.

"Sections 5, 7, and 8 of the law protecting the privacy and security of the citizens are suspended," a statement signed by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said. It gave no specific time period. 

The army takeover that brought a decade-old democracy to an end has unleashed a storm of anger and defiance, with huge daily protests bringing urban centres around the country to a standstill.

Since taking ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her top allies into custody, troops have stepped up arrests of civil servants, doctors and others joining strikes demanding the generals relinquish power.

The protests have united disparate strands of society, saw saffron-robed monks and players from Myanmar's national football team gathering in different parts of Yangon.

"We will only play football on the street until we get democracy," said goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet.

"We won’t play for the national team under the military dictatorship."

Meanwhile, hundreds of monks led a prayer session in front of the US embassy.

"The people of Myanmar want democracy," tweeted out the embassy in a message of solidarity. "We stand with them."

By nightfall, police announced that arrest warrants had been issued for several prominent activists for "using their popularity... to damage state stability", and warned that anyone harbouring them "will be dealt with under the law".

READ MORE: Outrage grows over Myanmar coup

Protesters defiant

Opposition to Myanmar's new military regime has intensified over the past week with spontaneous neighbourhood watch groups mobilised to thwart arrests of anti-coup activists.

Crowds defied overnight curfews to mass on the streets as night fell, hours after finishing a seventh straight day of rallies, following rumours that police were preparing to launch a fresh wave of arrests.

One group swarmed a hospital in the city of Pathein on rumours that a popular local doctor would be taken, chanting a Buddhist prayer urging protection from harm.

"If I have problems, I will ask for your help," doctor Than Min Htut told the group who had come to aid him, flashing the three-finger salute that has come to symbolise resistance to the coup.

Than Min Htut confirmed to AFP that he was still free and would continue to participate in a civil disobedience campaign opposing military rule.

READ MORE: Resolution by UN rights body urges Myanmar military to free of Suu Kyi

People in Yangon skirted a junta ban on Facebook to organise neighbourhood watch groups that warned of rumoured arrests.

They signalled calls to gather outside buildings by banging pots and pans, a nightly phenomenon in the days after the coup that is traditionally associated with driving out evil.

"We didn't know who will be taken, but when we heard the sound, we went out to join our neighbours," said Tin Zar, a storekeeper in Yangon's north.

"Even if they shoot, we are not afraid," she said.

READ MORE: Myanmar's protesters defiant as military accused of human rights abuses

More than 320 people have been arrested since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

An emergency session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva called for the new regime to release all "arbitrarily detained" persons and hand power back to Suu Kyi's administration.

The UN deputy rights chief Nada al Nashif warned Myanmar in the Friday meeting that "the world is watching" events unfold in the country.

READ MORE: Myanmar military rulers order ban on Twitter, Instagram

'Internal affairs' 

So far, the generals remain undeterred by the widespread condemnation on the streets, and overseas.

They justified seizing power with claims of widespread voter fraud in November's election, which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

Washington this week imposed targeted sanctions against top military brass.

But traditional allies of the country's armed forces, including Russia and China, have slammed the international outcry against the coup as interference in Myanmar's "internal affairs".

Suu Kyi has not been seen since her detention nearly two weeks ago.

READ MORE: What is happening in Myanmar? 'They messed with the wrong generation'

Source: TRTWorld and agencies