Millions expected to stop work and join protests calling for restoration of democracy three weeks after generals seized power in a coup.
Myanmar began a nationwide general strike on Monday despite a curfew, road blockades and more overnight arrests, as the United States warned it would “take firm action” against the military if it continued to crack down on people calling for the restoration of the country’s elected government.
At least two people were killed after violence over the weekend as thousands gathered on Sunday in Naypyidaw for the funeral of 20-year-old Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who was shot in the head at protests in the capital on February 9 and died from her injuries on Friday.
The deaths over the weekend, one of them a 16-year-old, took place in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city after police fired live bullets to try and disperse the crowd. At least 20 people were injured.
The violence has raised alarm with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters was “unacceptable”.
On Sunday night, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the violence.
“The United States will continue to take firm action against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government,” Blinken wrote on Twitter, referring to Myanmar by an earlier name. The US has already imposed sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup on February 1 and other military officers.
Small groups began gathering in Yangon in defiance of a curfew and a statement broadcast on state television warning the protesters were “inciting the people” to a “confrontation path where they will suffer loss of life”.
‘You will be held accountable’
Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said he was “deeply concerned” about the statement.
“Warning to the junta: Unlike 1988, actions by security forces are being recorded and you will be held accountable,” Andrews wrote on Twitter.
The protesters are planning a nationwide strike to close all but essential services on potentially the biggest day of protests since the generals seized power three weeks ago. Local media said the country’s largest retailer, City Mart, would close along with other private retailers and reported millions could turn out for what is being called the “Five Twos” revolution.
The military made more arrests on Sunday night with popular actor Lu Min taken from his home after apparently posting a video condemning the coup. His wife live-streamed the incident on social media.
The 22222 uprising has begun in #Burma & millions of ppl coming out to the streets in every town and city today. Military placed barricades and barbs wire blocking the embassies and key locations. #CivilDisobedienceMovementMyanmar @BBCWorld @SkyNews @WorIdCNNnews @AJEnglish @ABC pic.twitter.com/c9MgJatEKu
— Kyaw Win (@kyawwin78) February 22, 2021
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) says 640 people have now been arrested since the coup began and 594 remain in detention. Myint Oo, a member of parliament, was also among those detained on Sunday night.
The internet was shut down for the eighth night with NetBlocks, which monitors service outages and disruption saying the network dropped to 13 percent of its usual level at 1am on Monday (18:30 GMT on Sunday).
Popularly elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, senior politicians in her National League for Democracy (NLD) and members of the elections commission were arrested in the early hours of February 1.
The military has claimed it had to seize power because of fraud in last November’s elections, which the NLD won in a landslide. The elections commissioned has rejected the claims.