Myanmar protest call for general strike draws junta threat

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A call for a Monday general strike by demonstrators in Myanmar protesting against the military’s seizure of power has prompted a thinly veiled threat from the ruling junta to use lethal force, raising the possibility of major clashes.

The strike call was made on Sunday by the Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organised group leading resistance to the army’s February 1 takeover.

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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 on 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, which was replicated by an announcement spoken in Burmese.

Protesters gather under an elevated roadway in Yangon on Monday (AP)

Another part of the statement blamed protesters – who were said to have 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 non-violence and has only occasionally been involved in shoving matches with police. Bottles have occasionally been thrown at officers by protesters alleging provocation.

In Yangon, the country’s biggest city, trucks cruised the streets on Sunday night blaring announcements that people should not attend protests Monday and must honour a ban on gatherings of five or more people.

The ban was issued soon after the coup but not enforced in Yangon, which for the past two weeks has been the scene of large daily demonstrations.

The casket containing the body of Mya Thwet Thwet Khine is carried through the crowds towards the cemetery in Naypyitaw Myanmar on Sunday (AP)

Many social media postings ahead of the scheduled nightly 1am cut-off of internet 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 internet blocking, usually lasting until 9am, would be extended until noon in Yangon.

The ominous signs of potential conflict drew attention outside Myanmar, with the US reiterating that it stood with the people of Myanmar.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter the US would take firm action “against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government”.

“We call on the military to stop violence, release all those unjustly detained, cease attacks on journalists and activists, and respect the will of the people,” spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter.

Earlier on Sunday, crowds in Myanmar’s capital attended a funeral for Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, 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.

Protests against the coup and the ousting of the nation’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, occurred elsewhere around the country Sunday.

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