Protesters gathered in Myanmar’s largest city on Monday despite a thinly veiled threat from the ruling junta to use deadly force if people responded to a call for a general strike opposing the military takeover three weeks ago.
Despite roadblocks around the US embassy in Yangon, more than a thousand protesters gathered there, while 20 military trucks with riot police had arrived nearby.
The crowd was gathering after supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organized group leading the resistance, called on people to join in Monday’s date for a “Spring Revolution.”
The board warned against the general strike in a public announcement broadcast last Sunday on the state television station MRTV.
“It is found that the protesters have lifted their incitement to the mob of mutiny and anarchy on February 22. The protesters are now inciting people, especially emotional teenagers and youth, onto a path of confrontation where they will suffer loss of life, ”read the text on the screen in English, replicating the announcement spoken in Burmese.
The board’s statement also blamed criminals for protest violence in the past, with the result that “members of the security forces had to respond.” So far, three protesters have been shot dead.
The protest movement has embraced nonviolence and has only occasionally gotten into pushing matches with police and throwing bottles at them when provoked.
In Yangon, trucks hit the streets Sunday night with blaring warnings against attending meetings of five or more people. The ban on such gatherings was issued shortly after the coup but was not widely enforced as cities witnessed large daily demonstrations.
During the night, authorities also tried to block key streets with barriers that included trailers with smashed tires, but protesters pushed them aside.
The ominous signs of a possible conflict drew attention outside Myanmar, and the United States reiterated its support for the people of Myanmar.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter that the United States would take firm action “against those who perpetrate acts of violence against the people of Burma while demanding the restoration of their democratically elected government.”
‘The will of the people’
“We call on the military to stop the violence, release all those unjustly detained, stop attacks against journalists and activists and respect the will of the people,” spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter.
Earlier Sunday, crowds in Myanmar’s capital attended a funeral for the young woman, who was the first person confirmed dead in the protests, while protesters also mourned two other protesters who were shot and killed on Saturday.
Protesters flocked to Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, where security forces shot dead two people on Saturday near a shipyard where authorities had been trying to force workers to load a boat. Workers, such as railroad workers and truck drivers and many civil servants, have joined the campaign of civil disobedience.
The junta prevented parliament from meeting on February 1, claiming that last November’s elections, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party overwhelmingly, were tainted with fraud. The electoral commission that claimed victory has been replaced by the junta, which says new elections will be held within a year.
The coup was a major setback for Myanmar’s transition to democracy after 50 years of army rule that began with a 1962 coup. Suu Kyi came to power after her party won the 2015 elections, but the generals held back. substantial power under a constitution drawn up by the army.
Under the board, 640 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, and 593, including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, remain in detention, according to the independent Political Prisoner Assistance Association.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism