Myanmar’s military rulers have threatened protesters with deadly force following calls for a general strike to oppose the coup instigated on 1st February.
The strike follows the deaths of two protesters at demonstrations in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, on Saturday. One was reportedly shot in the head dying at the scene, while the other, who had been shot in the chest, died on the way to hospital.
On Sunday night, state broadcaster MRTV responded with an announcement threatening lethal force if protests continued.
“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,” the announcement said.
The statement further alleged that criminal gangs were involved in the violence at the demonstrations, noting that “security force members had to fire back”.
Thousands of people have come out in support of the strike across the country, in spite of the threat in one of the largest demonstrations since the coup began. Civil servants, truckers and railway workers are among those on strike, as shops and markets across the country closed.
The call for the strike was issued by the Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organised group leading protests against the coup on Sunday.
The group urged people to gather on the Five Twos, a reference to Monday’s date (22/02/2021). Calling for a “Spring Revolution”, the movement demanded an end to the coup, the release of civilian leaders, and the reinstatement of the civilian government.
In spite of road blocks around the US embassy in Yangon, over a thousand protesters gathered before it, while riot police gathered nearby.
In response to the escalating violence, the US, which has already issued stern sanctions on the military, renewed its condemnation of the military leadership.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed that the US would take “firm action” against the coup’s instigators.
“The United States will continue to take firm action against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government,” he tweeted.
The announcement followed the Canadian and British governments’ commitment to sanction leaders of the military regime responsible for the coup last week.
Condemning the “use of lethal force” by Myanmar’s military, António Guterres, the UN’s Secretary General, urged all parties to “respect election results”. The results of Myanmar’s 2020 election were disputed by the country’s military, who declared them fraudulent when they instigated the coup.