Myanmar coup anniversary marked by strike and global concern

Opponents of military rule in Myanmar marked the first anniversary of the military’s seizure of power with a nationwide strike on Tuesday to show strength and solidarity in the face of concern over what has become a struggle for the power of more and more violent.

The “silent strike” aimed to empty the streets of Myanmar’s towns and villages by forcing people to stay at home and businesses to close from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, and elsewhere, photos on social media showed normally busy streets were nearly empty.

The anniversary has also drawn international attention, particularly from Western countries critical of the military coup, including the United States.

In a statement, President Biden called on the military to reverse its actions, release the country’s ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other detainees, and engage in meaningful dialogue to put Myanmar back on its feet. road to democracy.

The military takeover on February 1, 2021 toppled the elected government of Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party was set to begin a second five-year term after winning a landslide victory in the November elections of the previous year. The military said it acted because there was widespread voter fraud in the polls – an allegation that independent election monitors said they saw no serious evidence of.

Widespread non-violent protests followed the army’s initial takeover, but armed resistance erupted after protests were put down with lethal force. Around 1,500 civilians were killed, but the government was unable to quell the insurgency, which some UN experts are now calling a civil war.

The United States imposed new sanctions on Myanmar officials on Monday, in addition to those already imposed on senior military officials. The sanctions freeze any assets the targeted individuals may hold in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them. Britain and Canada have announced similar measures.

A statement from the office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed to “an escalation in violence, deepening human rights and humanitarian crises and a rapid increase in poverty in Myanmar”, which, according to her, required an urgent response.

Residents of Myanmar rushed before the start of Tuesday’s strike to buy basic necessities, and many in Yangon appeared to have done their shopping on Monday.

Flash mob pro-democracy marches took place in several places before the strike began in the early hours of the morning, when clashes with police and soldiers are less likely.

Local media reported ongoing violence on Monday, with at least six bombings believed to have been carried out by resistance forces in Yangon, and another at a police station in Myitkyina in northern India. Kachin State. The opposition carries out daily guerrilla actions, while the army carries out larger-scale assaults in rural areas, including airstrikes which have caused numerous civilian casualties.

Despite tight security in cities like Yangon, Mandalay and Sagaing, young protesters, including Buddhist monks, staged spirited but peaceful dawn protests, waving banners and chanting anti-military slogans.

Many also raised three fingers, the resistance salute adopted from the film “Hunger Games” which has also been used by pro-democracy protesters in neighboring Thailand.

Traders have been threatened with arrest by the authorities; therefore some were open for business on Tuesday but appeared to have few or no customers.

Since last week, the government has published official warnings in state media that anyone taking part in the strike could be prosecuted, including under Myanmar’s anti-terrorism law, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and the possible confiscation of his property.

Dozens of business owners who announced plans to close have been arrested, according to reports in the state-run Myanma Alinn Daily.

The detainees, from different parts of the country, included shopkeepers, restaurant owners, medical workers, a monk, a makeup artist, a cellphone repair shop owner and an astrologer.

The military-installed government launched other measures to try to undermine the strike. In Yangon and Mandalay, city administrators have scheduled special events, including a cycling competition, to try to attract crowds. Yangon city workers were asked to attend strike hours, according to leaked documents posted on social media.

Several pro-military demonstrations, widely believed to have been organized by the authorities, also took place.

Leaders of opposing camps also broadcast speeches marking the anniversary.

Duwa Lashi La, acting chairman of the opposition national unity government, said the group was seen by the people as the driving force of the revolution and promised to do everything possible to see the revolution through. a success. The NUG, created by elected legislators, sees itself as the legitimate administrative body of the country and has won the loyalty of many citizens. The military labeled it a terrorist organization.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military-installed government, reviewed his performance since taking power in an hour-long speech. He promised a “genuine and disciplined multi-party democratic system”, calling for cooperation “to achieve a better future for the country and the people”.

Teresa H. Sadler