Third anniversary of military coup marked with ‘silent strike’ across Myanmar

RFA Burmese
Third anniversary of military coup marked with ‘silent strike’ across Myanmar A nearly empty street near the Shwe Dagon Pagoda during a "silent strike" to protest and to mark the third anniversary of the military coup in Yangon on Feb. 1, 2024.

People in Myanmar staged a nationwide silent strike on Thursday, forgoing work and staying inside their homes to mark the third anniversary of the coup d’etat that saw the military seize control of the country.

The protest was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, as well as Mogoke in the Mandalay region; Monywa, Salingyi, Yinmarbin, Kani and Shwebo in the Sagaing region; Myaing in the Magway region; Mudon in Mon state; Kawa in the Bago region; Ywangan in southern Shan state; and Hpakant in Kachin state.

Vehicle and foot traffic was noticeably reduced in Yangon, residents told RFA Burmese, while security appeared heightened, following the deployment of additional junta troops and security vehicles in the city on Wednesday.

A resident of Yangon’s Shwepyithar township who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, said soldiers, police and officials from the general administration and city development departments were jointly inspecting shops that remained closed as part of the strike.

“Under tight security, they … were taking pictures of the shops that were closed,” the resident said. “There is a [pro-junta] event in front of city hall. Five monks and 95 residents are being made to go to the event [to show support].”

The resident said that similar pro-junta events to mark the Feb. 1, 2021, coup were being held in other townships in Yangon, and that the military regime was requiring at least 100 people to attend in larger townships and 50 in smaller ones.

‘Show of strength’ against junta

Ko Kung, who joined the silent strike in Yangon, called the event a “show of strength” against the junta.

“People across the country are demonstrating that they are still participating in the revolution,” he said. “They want to show that they hate [junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing], and they will fight until he is removed.”

Yay Bawe, the chairman of the youth group Octopus, which has spearheaded protests in Yangon, told RFA that his organization planned to step up its unarmed resistance movement against the junta following the third anniversary of the coup.

“After the third anniversary, we will fight at an accelerated pace using methods of innovative, unarmed, non-violent mass movement,” he said. “We’d like to thank the public for participating in the revolution in various ways, and for enduring the junta’s violations of human rights and democracy – including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings.”

Silent strikes were staged in Yangon, shown here, and many other towns and cities across Myanmar to mark the third anniversary of the 2021 military coup on Feb. 1, 2024. [AFP]

Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, also saw a significant reduction in foot traffic on Thursday, as residents joined in the silent strike.

A resident of the city, who declined to be named, told RFA that the streets were “nearly empty this morning.”

“Normally, on weekdays, people are busy moving around, but it’s quite obvious that there are very few people [today],” he said. “[Many places] are nearly deserted.”

Cracking down on the strike

Tayzar San, a prominent protest leader, told RFA that the military regime had arranged mandatory pro-junta rallies and religious sermons on Thursday, forcing people out onto the streets and preventing them from closing their stores in cities including Yangon.

“[The junta’s] only response [to the strike] is to bully the people and to try to make them afraid,” he said. “The junta is terrified of these movements that are joined by the entire population. It’s obvious that they are trembling with fear, while the unity of the people is more apparent than ever.”

In the Yangon region’s Kyeemyindaing and Hlaing townships, the junta ordered that shops be opened and authorities took photos of those that were closed, a youth from Kyeemyindaing said.

“They threatened and forced shop owners to open their shops, and took photos of closed shops,” he said. “They also knocked on doors asking how many people lived in each location. All were in plainclothes … They compiled a list of the apartments.”

The youth noted that there had been no checking of occupancy lists the day before.

A junta convoy patrols the streets of Yangon on the third anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, Feb. 1, 2024. [RFA]

In addition to mandatory pro-junta rallies, and the inspection of closed shops, RFA received reports of authorities arresting youths for taking photos of empty streets in Yangon.

A member of the Yangon wing of the group Octopus told RFA that at least three young men were taken into custody by plainclothes officers in North Okkalapa township as they snapped pictures of the silent strike.

“I heard that people in civilian clothes arrested three young men who were holding phones in North Okkalapa and took them to the ward office,” the member said, adding that further details about the detainees are unknown.

RFA was unable to independently verify the claims.

Attempts by RFA to contact Attorney General Htay Aung, the junta’s spokesperson for the Yangon region, for comment on the arrests went unanswered Thursday.

Sources in the Mandalay and Ayeyarwaddy regions also reported that authorities had forced shop owners to open closed shops on Thursday.

In the three years since the coup, authorities have killed 4,474 civilians and democracy activists and detained nearly 26,000 others – more than 20,000 of whom remain behind bars, Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) said Thursday.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news service affiliated with BenarNews, produced this report. 


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