More Myanmar protests follow strike as international concern grows

Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar
Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar (AP)
12:37pm, Tue 23 Feb 2021
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Protesters against the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar have returned to the streets of the country’s biggest city, a day after a call for a general strike closed shops and brought huge numbers out to demonstrate.

Numbers were down from Monday’s massive crowds, but around 1,000 people in Yangon had gathered at the city’s Hledan Centre, a major meeting point for protesters, with other groups assembling at other venues.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, a funeral was held for 37-year-old Thet Naing Win, one of two protesters shot dead by security forces on Saturday.

He and a teenage boy were killed when police and soldiers opened fire on a crowd that had gathered to support dock workers whom the authorities were trying to force to work. They have been on strike, as have many civil servants and state workers, as part of a nationwide civil obedience movement against the military takeover on February 1.

Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar (AP)

The military said it took power because last November’s election was marked by widespread voting irregularities, an assertion that was refuted by the state election commission, whose members have since been replaced by the ruling junta.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory at the polls, which would have installed her government for a second five-year term in power. However, the army blocked parliament from convening and detained Ms Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and other top members of her government.

The junta has said it will rule for a year under a state of emergency and then hold fresh elections.

There was a flurry of diplomatic activity abroad on Monday, as international concern about the situation remained high.

The G7 nations issued their second statement since the coup, condemning violence by Myanmar’s security forces and demanding they act with restraint according to international standards for human rights.

“Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account,” they said.

A protest in Yangon, Myanmar (AP)

The group also condemned restrictions on freedom of expression, including arrests and the blocking of internet access, and called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi and her colleagues.

The United States and several Western governments have called for the junta to refrain from violence, release detainees and restore Ms Suu Kyi’s government. On Monday, the US said it was imposing sanctions against more junta members because of the killings of peaceful protesters by security forces.

Lt Gen Moe Myint Tun and Gen Maung Maung Kyaw add to other military leaders and entities facing US sanctions, and Britain and Canada have taken similar action since the coup.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement that the US condemns the attacks on protesters, and vowed to take further action if more violence occurs.

“We call on the military and police to cease all attacks on peaceful protesters, immediately release all those unjustly detained, stop attacks on and intimidation of journalists and activists, and restore the democratically elected government,” Mr Blinken said.

European Union foreign ministers ordered a series of measures to be drawn up to target those responsible for the coup. They said the EU is ready “to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible” for the coup. They plan to keep all other options “under review”.

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