Health

Myanmar activists vow to defy junta with strike on coup anniversary

The
Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi
and other figures from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party were
rounded up in raids, accused by the junta of rigging a 2020 election the NLD
won.

The
overthrow of Suu Kyi’s government triggered huge street protests last year and
the security forces killed hundreds in crackdowns that ensued leading to the
formation of “people’s defence forces” to take on the well-equipped
army.

In
recent days, activists have urged people to stay indoors and businesses to
close on Tuesday.

“We
might be arrested and spend our life in jail if we’re lucky. We might be
tortured and killed if we’re unlucky,” saidyouth activist Nan Lin, who
hoped the strike would send a message to the junta.

A
spokesman for the ruling military did not respond to telephone calls seeking
comment.

State
media reported military ruler Min Aung Hlaing had on Monday extended a state of
emergency for six months to facilitate promised elections.

“It
was necessary to set the right track for the genuine, disciplined multi-party
democracy,” Min Aung Hlaing said in a report in the Global New Light of
Myanmar, where he talked about the threat from “internal and external
saboteurs” and “terrorist attacks and destruction”.

The
state-run newspaper said the military government would strive to hold new
elections once the situation was “peaceful and stable”, without
giving a date.

In
the northern city of Myitkyina, a photograph of a sign put up by the military
warned residents not to join the silent protest or face jail terms of up to 20
years, though images of the city posted on social media on Tuesday showed
largely deserted streets.

See also  How exercise may tame our anxiety

In
the main city of Yangon, photographs on a social media page put up by strike
organisers showed a small protest where people threw red paint on the ground.

The
impact of the calls for a nationwide strike was not immediately clear. At least
four people were arrested in the central town of Pathein for inciting silent
protests on social media, the Ayarwaddy Times reported.

INTERNATIONAL
PRESSURE

U.N.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in comments ahead of the coup anniversary,
urged the junta to allow greater humanitarian access.

The
junta has accused the United Nations of bias and interference and is refusing
to bow to international pressure, despite a corporate retreat from Myanmar and
sanctions, the latest on Monday, when the United States, Britain and Canada
blacklisted more individuals linked to the junta.

For
ordinary Myanmar people, life since the coup has become a grind with the
economy withering, regular power cuts and internet curbs and, for some, a
constant fear of being detained.

Security
forces cracking down on dissent have killed at least 1,500 people and arrested
11,838 since the coup, according to the Assistance Association of Political
Prisoners, an activist group cited by the United Nations. The junta disputes
the death toll.

Suu
Kyi, 76, is on trial in more than a dozen cases that carry a combined maximum
sentence of more than 150 years in prison, charges that critics say are
designed to ensure she can never return to politics.

In a
joint statement, the foreign ministers of countries including Australia,
Britain, South Korea, the United States, Canada as well as the European Union
urged the international community to cease the flow of “arms, materiel,
dual-use equipment, and technical assistance” to the Myanmar military.

See also  What we learned about the US economy in 2021

An
internationally backed diplomatic effort led by the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) has faltered, with the junta’s failure to honour its
commitment to end hostilities and support dialogue frustrating members,
including Singapore.

“Conditions
in Myanmar for the people continue to deteriorate,” its foreign ministry
said in a statement marking the anniversary, which demanded Suu Kyi and all
political prisoners be freed.

Related Articles

Back to top button