Yangon, Myanmar, Mar 8 (efe-epa).- At least two civilians were killed during protests in Myanmar on Monday during a nationwide general strike called by major labor unions to shut down the economy in protest of the Feb. 1 military coup.
Two males were shot dead in the northern Kachin state city of Myitkina as security forces dispersed protesters. One was shot in the head and the other in the neck, a person with the bodies told Efe, while local media reported further injuries.
At least six people were injured by security forces in Mandalay, with two in critical condition, the local Myanmar Now outlet reported.
In Yangon, businesses were closed while protesters erected barricades and hung women’s htameins, a traditional sarong, across streets coinciding with Women’s Day and to deter security forces. It is seen as bad luck for men to walk under these garments.
Myanmar Now also reported that some protesters were shot with rubber bullets in the city’s Sanchaung township.
Major labor unions had called for a nationwide work stoppage to shut down the economy amid the violent crackdowns by security forces, which have killed more than 50 people so far.
“To continue the economic and business activities as usual, and to delay a general work-stoppage, will only benefit the military as they repress the energy of the Myanmar people. The time to take action in defense of our democracy is now,” an alliance of 18 labor organizations in the country said in a joint statement.
The civil disobedience movement, which began days after the coup, has managed to bring the administration practically to a halt.
“The workers of Myanmar are prepared to take action to protect democracy and save our future generations from dictatorship,” added the statement, which called for a “full, extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy” starting Monday.
Meanwhile, soldiers conducted a new series of “violent” night raids on Sunday and forcibly occupied public hospitals in Yangon, the country’s former capital and most populated city, and reportedly also in other cities including Mandalay, Monywa and Taunggyi, the United States-based nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights said in a statement.
The organization called the forceful occupation of public hospitals “a violation of international law” and said it only “serves to further undermine a health care system already embattled by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the military’s recent coup d’état.”
Health workers were the first to begin the civil disobedience movement against the military, which includes widespread strikes.
“Even though medical personnel vacated their government posts to initiate the Civil Disobedience Movement, many returned to government hospitals in response to escalating violence against peaceful protesters,” Sandra Mon, an epidemiologist at the Center for Public Health and Human Rights of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said.
“This widespread siege of hospitals follows several days of prominent civilian injuries and casualties, and can be interpreted as a direct attempt to impede access to care for civilians. It is also a threat to attending medics to warn them against further treating injured protesters,” she added.
At least 54 people have been killed due to the security force crackdowns since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The military has also arrested at least 1,790 people, including 318 that have already been released, according to AAPP, and are employing intimidation tactics such as night-time raids in Yangon, which include arbitrary arrests, beatings and the use of stun grenades.
Myanmar’s military junta has defended the actions of the authorities, and police have said that they have acted “in accordance with the law,” while security forces are “minimizing injuries,” official media The Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
Also Sunday, the Australian government announced the suspension of a bilateral military agreement and called for the release of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as her Australian economic adviser Prof. Sean Turnell and others.
The bilateral Defence Cooperation Program that Australia has with Myanmar’s military will be suspended and its development program will be redirected to “the most vulnerable and poor including the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.
The country will also review its sanctions regime.