The call for a general strike on Monday (Feb. 22) by Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) has been met by the ruling junta with a thinly veiled threat to use lethal force, warning that a confrontation will result in the “loss of life”.
The CDM, a loosely organised group leading resistance to the army’s takeover, asked people to gather together for the Five Twos – referring to the digits in Monday’s date – to make a “Spring Revolution”.
On Sunday, state television broadcaster MRTV carried a public announcement from the junta, formally called the State Administration Council, warning against the general strike.
“It is found that the protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February. Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” it said in English-language text shown onscreen. The spoken announcement in Burmese said the same thing.
Another part of the statement blamed protesters whose numbers allegedly included criminal gangs for violence at demonstrations, with the result that “the security force members had to fire back”. Three protesters have been shot dead so far.
In Yangon, the country’s biggest city and commercial capital, trucks cruised the streets on Sunday night blaring announcements that people should not attend protests on Monday and must honour a ban on gatherings of five or more people.
The ban on gathering was issued shortly after the coup but not enforced in Yangon, which for the past two weeks has been the scene of large daily demonstrations.
Many social media posts ahead of the scheduled nightly 1am cut-off of Internet access service said security forces had set up roadblocks at strategic points in the city, including bridges and on streets leading to foreign embassies.
Elsewhere in Myanmar, protesters against the coup that ousted the nation’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, gathered again on Sunday.
Demonstrators turned out in force in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, where security forces shot two people dead on Saturday near a dockyard where the authorities had been trying to force workers to load a boat.
The workers, like railway workers and truckers and many civil servants, have joined the civil disobedience campaign against the junta.
The shooting broke out after neighbourhood residents rushed to the dock to try to assist the workers in their resistance.
One of the victims, described as a teenage boy, was shot in the head and died immediately, while another was shot in the chest and died en route to a hospital.
The new deaths drew quick and strong reactions from the international community.
“I am horrified at more loss of life, including a teenage boy in Mandalay, as the ruling junta escalates its brutality in Myanmar,” Tom Andrews, the United Nation’s independent investigator for human rights in the country, said on Twitter.
“From water cannons to rubber bullets to tear gas and now hardened troops firing point blank at peaceful protesters. This madness must end, now!”
The authorities have continued arrests that began on the day of the Feb. 1 coup, when Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the government were detained.
According to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 640 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, with 593, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, still in detention.
The junta took power after detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and preventing parliament from convening, claiming elections last November were tainted by voting irregularities. The junta says it will hold new elections in a year’s time.
The coup was a major setback to Myanmar’s transition to democracy after 50 years of army rule that began with a 1962 coup. (Source: CNA)