Myanmar coup: Thousands defy military warning in mass strike

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Hundreds of thousands of protesters have turned out in Myanmar in one of the largest demonstrations yet against the military coup.

Businesses closed as employees joined a general strike, despite a military statement that said protesters were risking their lives by turning out.

Police dispersed crowds in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and a water cannon truck was seen moving into position.

Myanmar has seen weeks of protest following the coup on 1 February.

Military leaders overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and have placed her under house arrest, charging her with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law.

A statement from the military carried on state-run broadcaster MRTV said that protesters were “now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life”.

It cautioned people against “riot and anarchy”.

The warning comes after at least two people were killed in protests on Sunday – the worst violence yet in more than two weeks of demonstrations.

Protesters are demanding an end to military rule and want Ms San Suu Kyi released, along with senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Foreign pressure on military leaders has also been high. In a speech later on Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will demand Ms Suu Kyi’s release.

What’s happening on the ground?
Demonstrations are taking place in all of Myanmar’s main cities, with people waving flags and chanting.

Local media have been tweeting out images of massive crowds gathering in various parts of the country.

Thompson Chau, editor of local media outlet Frontier, told the BBC’s World Service that Monday’s protests seemed “a lot bigger than before, with more roads blocked, highways blocked and shops closed everywhere we go”.

“Today is more of a huge strike in a sense that everyone is not going to work. All the shops are closed.”

Mr Chau added that even those working for “official state companies” as well as “government doctors [and] engineers” were going on strike.

There have not been reports of widespread violence, despite the stern warnings delivered by the military on state media.

Monday’s protest, which has been nicknamed the “22222 Revolution” because it is taking place on 22 February, is being compared by protesters to demonstrations on 8 Aug 1988 – known as the 8888 uprising – when Myanmar saw one of its most violent protests.

The military cracked down on anti-government demonstrations, killing hundreds of protesters. For many, the date is seen as a watershed moment in Myanmar.

Myanmar in profile
Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
In 2017, militants from the Rohingya ethnic group attacked police posts, and Myanmar’s army and local Buddhist mobs responded with a deadly crackdown, reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya. More than half a million Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, and the UN later called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”

Agencies

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