Myanmar set for silent strike after violence claims youngest victim

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People hold candles as they take part in an anti-coup night protest at Hledan junction in Yangon March 14, 2021. — Reuters
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - People hold candles as they take part in an anti-coup night protest at Hledan junction in Yangon March 14, 2021. — Reuters

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YANGON, March 24 — Myanmar activists plan more anti-coup protests today, including a silent strike with many businesses due to close and calls for people to stay home, a day after a seven-year-old girl was killed in her home when security forces opened fire during a crackdown in Mandalay.

Pro-democracy protesters also held more candle-lit vigils overnight including in a district of the commercial capital Yangon and in Thahton in Mon State.

The vigils came after staff at a funeral service in Mandalay told Reuters yesterday that a seven-year-old girl had died of bullet wounds in the city — the youngest victim so far in a bloody crackdown of opposition to the February 1 coup.

Soldiers shot at her father but hit the girl who was sitting on his lap inside their home, her sister told the Myanmar Now media outlet. Two men were also killed in the district, it said.

The military had no immediate comment on the incident.

In what has now often become a deadly game of cat and mouse with security forces during street protests, pro-democracy activists switched tactics and planned to hold a silent strike today.

“No going out, no shops, no working. All shut down. Just for one day,” Nobel Aung, an illustrator and activist told Reuters.

Social media posts and media indicated a range of businesses from ride hailers to pharmacies planned to close.

The junta has faced international condemnation for staging the coup that halted Myanmar’s slow transition to democracy and for its lethal suppression of the protests that followed.

It has tried to justify the takeover by saying a November 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was fraudulent — an accusation the electoral commission has rejected. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date and have declared a state of emergency.

Suu Kyi court hearing

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said yesterday 164 protesters had been killed and expressed sadness at the deaths, a day after the European Union and the United States imposed more sanctions on groups or individuals linked to the coup.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group says at least 275 people have been killed in the security forces’ crackdown.

Zaw Min Tun blamed the bloodshed on the protesters and said nine members of the security forces had been also killed.

He said strikes and hospitals not fully operating had caused deaths, including from Covid-19, calling them “undutiful and unethical”. Opponents of military rule have regularly called for strikes and also a civil disobedience campaign, including among civil servants, that has paralysed parts of the economy.

The junta spokesman also accused media of “fake news” and fanning unrest and said reporters could be prosecuted if they were in contact with the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), as the remnants of Suu Kyi’s government is known. The military has declared the CRPH an illegal organisation and said membership is punishable by death.

He also gave details that he said showed how the NLD had created hundreds or even thousands of extra ballots by inventing voters, including in Suu Kyi’s own constituency.

The NLD has denied making any attempt to rig the election.

Also shown at the junta news conference was video testimony of former Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein saying he visited Suu Kyi multiple times and gave her money “whenever needed”.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign to bring democratic civilian rule to Myanmar, has been in detention since the coup and faces charges that her lawyer says have been cooked up to discredit her.

The ousted leader is due to appear for another court hearing via video conferencing today after a previous hearing had to be adjourned due to internet problems. — Reuters

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