Myanmar protesters call for general strike

VIGIL: People gather during a candlelight vigil to protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sunday, Feb. 21. Reuters

Opponents of Myanmar's military coup called a general strike and more street protests on Monday as authorities threatened that confrontation could cost lives after two protesters were shot dead over the weekend.

Despite deploying more forces and promising to hold a new election, the generals have failed to stop more than two weeks of daily protests and a civil disobedience movement calling for the reversal of the Feb. 1 coup and release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Leading youth activist Maung Saungkha urged others to join Monday's protests.

"Those who don't dare to go out, stay home. I will go out in any way I can. I will be expecting Generation Z. Let's meet, partners," he said in a Facebook post overnight.

In a country where dates are seen as auspicious, protesters noted the significance of the date 2/22/2021, comparing it to demonstrations on Aug. 8, 1988, when a previous generation staged anti-military protests which were bloodily suppressed.

The response of security forces this time has been less deadly, but at least three protesters have now been killed after two were shot dead in the second city of Mandalay on Saturday. One policeman died of injuries in protests, the army has said.

The deaths in Mandalay did not discourage protesters on Sunday, when they turned out again in tens of thousands there and in Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon.

State-owned media MRTV warned protesters against action on Monday.

"Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life," it said.

Authorities were "exercising utmost restraint," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It rebuked some foreign countries for remarks it described as flagrant interference in Myanmar's internal affairs.

Several Western countries have condemned the coup and decried the violence against protesters. The United States, Japan, Singapore, Britain and Germany have also condemned the violence, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said lethal force was unacceptable.

Residents in Yangon said roads to some embassies, including the U.S. embassy, were blocked on Monday. The diplomatic missions have become gathering points for protesters calling for foreign intervention.

The army seized power after alleging fraud in Nov. 8 elections that were swept by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, detaining her and much of the party leadership. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud complaints.

Myanmar's Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 640 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup – including former members of government and opponents of the army takeover.

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