Millions protest coup by joining general strike
The strikers poured onto the streets of Myanmar on Monday knowing that they might die. But they gathered by the millions anyway in the largest rallies since a military coup three weeks ago. Their only protection came from hard hats, holy amulets and the collective power of a newly called general strike.
Military generals had tried to halt Monday’s dissent with barricades and fleets of vehicles parked in strategic urban locations. Armored vehicles patrolled, while snipers took their stations on rooftops. An ominous warning had been issued hours before on state television: “Protesters are now inciting people, especially emotional teenagers and youth, toward a path of confrontation where they will suffer a loss of life.”
But the military’s show of force did little to quell Monday’s general strike, which proceeded peacefully in hundreds of cities and towns. Columns of people extended to the horizon near a traffic junction and a pagoda in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, and at the railway station in Mandalay, the secondlargest city. They congregated on Martyrs’ Street in Dawei, a seaside city, and by the clock towers in Monywa and Hpa-An, in the nation’s center and east.
“I will sacrifice my life for our future generations,” said Ko Bhone Nay Thit, 19, a university student in Mandalay who left home Monday armed with his mother’s prayers and the effects of a holy water ritual. “We must win.”