Myanmar protest call for general strike draws junta threat

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Students from the University of Medicine protest demonstrating by holding the brunches of Eugenia which is in the belief that the uprising is going to have succeeded, during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Police in Myanmar shot dead a few anti-coup protesters and injured several others on Saturday, as security forces increased pressure on popular revolt against the military takeover. (AP Photo)

YANGON – A call for a Monday general strike by demonstrators in Myanmar protesting the military’s seizure of power has been met by the ruling junta with a thinly veiled threat to use lethal force, raising the possibility of major clashes.

The call for a general strike was made Sunday by the Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organized group leading resistance to the army’s Feb. 1 takeover. It asked people to gather together for the Five Twos — referring to the digits in Monday’s date — to make a “Spring Revolution.”

State television broadcaster MRTV late Sunday 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 an 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.

The protest movement has embraced nonviolence and only occasionally gotten into shoving matches with police and thrown bottles at them when provoked.

In Yangon, the country’s biggest city, trucks cruised the streets Sunday night blaring announcements that people should not attend protests Monday and must honor a ban on gatherings of five or more people. The ban 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 postings ahead of the scheduled nightly 1 a.m. cutoff 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. Information on Twitter accounts that have proven reliable in the past said internet blocking, usually lasting until 9 a.m., would be extended to noon in Yangon.