Activists launch ‘silent strike’ as Myanmar celebrates coup anniversary under new sanctions

Myanmar’s junta marked a year in power on Tuesday despite new foreign sanctions as protesters vowed to rally against the army and its bloody crackdown.

The military takeover that ended the Southeast Asian country’s short democratic interplay has sparked mass protests and a crackdown on dissent with more than 1,500 civilians killed, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta is struggling to contain the backlash triggered by the coup, with daily clashes and parts of the country remaining out of control.

In comments published on Tuesday, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing reiterated the military’s claim that it had been forced to take power after fraud in the 2020 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, which international observers said was largely free and fair.

It would hold “free and fair” votes in August 2023 if stability in the country is restored, he told the state-run Global Global Light of Myanmar newspaper.

The streets of the commercial hub in Yangon were busy on Tuesday morning, AFP correspondents said, as residents made errands and met friends ahead of a “silent strike” protest that is expected to begin around 10 a.m. local time.

A similar strike in December emptied the streets of cities and towns across the country.

On Tuesday morning, pictures on local media showed that a dozen young protesters gathered in a flash mob in Yangon, unfurled a pro-democracy banner and started a flare-up.

Ahead of the anniversary, the junta has threatened to seize companies that close its doors and warned that noisy demonstrations or sharing anti-military “propaganda” could lead to treason or accusations of terrorism.

Sanctions On Monday, the United States, Britain and Canada unveiled coordinated sanctions against Myanmar officials, including officials involved in the trial of Suu Kyi.

Washington sanctioned Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court Justice Tun Tun Oo and Anti-Corruption Commission President Tin Oo, who they said were closely involved in the “politically motivated” indictment against Suu Kyi.

“We are coordinating these actions with Britain and Canada … to further promote accountability for the coup and the violence perpetrated by the regime,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Referring to “unspeakable violence against civilians”, the undermining of regional stability and “rampant” corruption, President Joe Biden said in a statement that he worked with allies to “hold those responsible” accountable.

Another lawsuit against Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi has already been sentenced to six years in prison for illegally importing and owning walkie-talkies, inciting the military and violating covid-19 rules.

The Nobel laureate will face another trial accused of influencing the country’s election commission during the 2020 polls that saw her party National League for Democracy (NLD) defeat a military rival, a source familiar with the case said.

The case is expected to be completed within six months. Former president and NLD loyalist Win Myint will face the same charges.

On Monday, deposed Myanmar lawmakers spoke from a shadow “national unity government” to the media in Paris.

Human Rights Spokesman Aung Myo Min called on the international community to impose an arms embargo and tighten economic sanctions to stop all trade with the regime.

UN Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer called for a “humanitarian break” in the violence to enable aid delivery and warned that hundreds of thousands had been displaced by conflicts.

Under Washington’s leadership, Britain imposed sanctions on Thida Oo, Tin Oo and a third person, the chairman of the country’s election commission.

“The Burmese military is using increasingly brutal and desperate tactics to try to hold on to power,” said Anna Roberts, head of Burma Campaign UK, welcoming the new sanctions.

“The British government is doing the right thing … but they need to speed up the pace of new sanctions. It is important to maximize the pressure now while the military is more vulnerable.”

(AFP)

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