Houston Chronicle

Strike plan met with Myanmar junta threat

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Myanmar — A call for a Monday general strike by demonstrat­ors in Myanmar protesting the military’s Feb. 1 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 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 and commercial capital, 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 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 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 that the normal blocking of internet access from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. would be extended to noon in Yangon.

Earlier Sunday, crowds in Myanmar’s capital attended a funeral for the young woman who was the first person confirmed to have been killed in the protests, while demonstrat­ors also mourned two other protesters who were shot dead on Saturday.

Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was shot in the head by police on Feb. 9, two days before her 20th birthday, at a protest in Naypyitaw, and died Friday.

Mourners lined the entrance to a cemetery in the city as the hearse carrying her body arrived and was taken to a crematoriu­m where more people had gathered. They silently raised their hands in threefinge­red salutes — a sign of defiance and resistance adopted from neighborin­g Thailand — as the black and gold vehicle rolled slowly past.

Inside the crematoriu­m hall, the lid on Mya Thwet Thwet Khine’s coffin was partially removed to allow a last glimpse of her head resting on a bed of red and white roses before she was cremated. Members of the crowd outside chanted “Our uprising must succeed!” Elsewhere in Myanmar, protesters against the coup that ousted the nation’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, gathered again Sunday.

Demonstrat­ors turned out in force in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, where security forces shot dead two people 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 neighborho­od residents rushed to the Yadanabon 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 reaction 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 U.N.’s independen­t investigat­or for human rights in the Southeast Asian 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!”

 ?? STR / AFP via Getty Images ?? Daw Myint Kyi, center, the mother of Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, mourns the young protester’s death. She was shot at a Feb. 9 rally against the military coup.
STR / AFP via Getty Images Daw Myint Kyi, center, the mother of Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, mourns the young protester’s death. She was shot at a Feb. 9 rally against the military coup.

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