Myanmar opposition protests mark general strike anniversary

More than 1,560 civilians have been killed and thousands of others arrested by the security forces since the military took power



Demonstrators flash a three-fingered symbol of resistance against the military coup. — AP file
Demonstrators flash a three-fingered symbol of resistance against the military coup. — AP file

By AP

Published: Tue 22 Feb 2022, 8:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 22 Feb 2022, 8:06 PM

Opponents of military rule gathered on Tuesday for protests in Myanmar’s cities, defying threats by the authorities to arrest anyone joining demonstrations against the army’s takeover a year ago.

The protests on Tuesday marked the anniversary of last year’s “Five-Twos Revolution”, a massive nationwide general strike against army rule just weeks after the military seized power.

Activists often call for actions — usually dubbed strikes — on significant occasions or anniversaries, and opposition activists had designated Tuesday’s protest “222222” or “Six-Twos,” derived from the digits in the date.

Photos and videos on social media showed scattered small groups of people marching in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and elsewhere.

Because of the risks of arrest or injury, urban street protests are usually carried out by flash mobs, which can dissolve before the security forces crack down.

Protesters in Yangon held banners with slogans such as “Gathering together again for the Six-Twos Revolution” and “Revolt in the countryside, defiance in the cities,” referring to the armed resistance carried on against the odds in rural areas, and the marches and other actions in urban areas.

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They also shouted anti-military chants and raised the three-finger salute of their movement, adopted from the “The Hunger Games” movie series.

Buddhist monks in the central city of Mandalay participated in a protest while collecting alms. Young people there hung banners with anti-military slogans in public areas in the early morning hours.

The military seized power on February 1, 2021, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won the 2020 general election by a landslide and was about to begin a second term in office. Nonviolent protests were met with lethal force by the authorities, escalating the crisis into violence that now includes armed resistance in many parts of the country.

More than 1,560 civilians have been killed and thousands of others arrested by the security forces according to a detailed tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent organisation founded in 2000 to track political repression in Myanmar.

Tuesday’s strike was designed to encourage public involvement with minimal risk of confrontations with security forces, said Phaung Yoe, a leader of the Labor Alliance group and the General Strike Coordination Body.

People were encouraged to show their support for the protest by taking actions that would not disrupt daily routines, such as wearing thanaka, a paste traditionally applied to the face to protect the skin, donning a farmer’s bamboo hat or holding flowers. Many participated online by showing photos of themselves with such accoutrements.

“Today’s strike is a powerful medicine for all the young people on the ground, the militants in the jungle, and all the Civil Disobedience Movement staff. Those in the prisons also know that the people are on their side and aim to continue to overcome difficulties,” Phaung Yoe said.

She urged people to bang pots and pans at 8pm on Tuesday — a form of protest based on a traditional activity to drive out evil spirits. The military announced last month that people who bang pots and pans in protest can be charged with high treason under the counter-terrorism law.

A young woman in the city of Monywa in Sagaing region in the country’s northwest was injured as she tried to escape from the security forces, said Arkuu, a leader of the Monywa People’s Strike Steering Committee. He said the woman, who was handing out leaflets with a companion, did not go to a hospital for treatment of her injuries because she feared arrest.

Security forces also cracked down on other people who were not actively protesting, according to Chindwin Yoma Media covering the northwest. It said at least 16 people in Monywa, where opposition to the military is strong, were arrested on Tuesday, most of them business owners accused of supporting the resistance movement.

In Yangon, two well-known writers received prison terms on Tuesday after being convicted under a section of the Penal Code that criminalizes comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news”.

Thet Naung, the lawyer for writer Htin Lin Oo, said a special court in Insein Prison gave his client a three-year sentence and satirist Maung Thar Cho two years. Both were arrested on the day of the military takeover last year, he said.

Htin Lin Oo, who has also been a political activist, was charged for posting a short video on Facebook commenting on arrests carried out by the military and saying that it had broken the country’s democracy, the lawyer said.

The state-run Myanma Alinn Daily newspaper said at least 233 people have been arrested by security forces since January 27 this year for postings on social media about the resistance movement, and face similar charges.


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