Conflicts & War

Protests grow across Myanmar after junta warns of further ‘loss of life’

(Update 1: Adds quotes from protesters)

Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 22 (efe-epa).- Massive anti-coup protests grew across Myanmar on Monday, despite the military junta warning of further “loss of life.”

As part of a general strike calling for the release of detained leaders and an end to military control, tens of thousands of protesters turned out again in the largest cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw, and also gathered in smaller or more remote areas, from the northernmost state of Kachin down to the southernmost town of Kawthaung, social media posts by residents and media showed.

In the most populated city of Yangon, a large civil engineers’ strike was the biggest of the various protesting groups.

“We heard news last night about road blocks and military positions in different areas. I think they underestimated us,” said a 30-year-old engineer. “We’ve been organizing our fellows and waiting for a moment. Today is the day that we have to show the engineers’ solidarity.”

An 18-year-old school girl said she doesn’t “care what their (military’s) rules and regulations are.”

“They are not our government so we don’t have to obey them… We will go out every day on the street till we can’t walk,” she said.

In a public announcement broadcast Sunday night on state television before the internet was once again shut down, the junta accused protesters of increasing “their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob” ahead of Monday’s demonstrations.

Three protesters have been shot dead with live ammunition in clashes with security forces so far, including two in the second city of Mandalay on Saturday. Many others have been injured.

“Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youth, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” the statement said.

Tom Andrews, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar said he was “deeply concerned” about the “ominous public warning” and told the junta that their actions were being recorded and they would be held accountable.

Also on Sunday night, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced “flagrant interference in internal affairs of Myanmar” by embassies in the country.

In a statement, it said that the embassies’ “statements and remarks also violated the Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 which implies that diplomats are to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State and should not interfere in the internal affairs.”

Some embassies in Yangon have recently issued statements against violence used on peaceful protesters.

In the same statement, the foreign affairs ministry claimed authorities “are exercising utmost restraint through minimum use of force” against protesters.

The funeral for 20-year-old Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, who was shot in the head with live ammunition at a demonstration in Naypyitaw on Feb. 9, took place Sunday.

Facebook also removed the main page of the junta from its platform on Sunday for not complying with its community standards.

The country is plunged into an unexplained junta-ordered internet blackout between 1 am and 9 am every night.

A 27-year-old businesswoman protesting in Yangon on Monday said people had heard news of a crackdown while internet is switched off at night, so she and her friends will go out during the blackout.

“If they want to do something, we’ll go live and tell the world what they did to us,” she said.

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