Protests swell after Myanmar junta raises spectre of force

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Protesters gathered in Myanmar’s biggest city Monday despite the ruling junta’s thinly veiled threat to use lethal force if people answered a call for a general strike opposing the military takeover three weeks ago.

Despite roadblocks around the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, more than a thousand protesters gathered there, while 20 military trucks with riot police had arrived nearby.

The crowds were gathering after supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organized group leading the resistance, called for people to unite on Monday’s date for a “Spring Revolution.”

The junta warned against the general strike in a public announcement carried last Sunday on state television broadcaster MRTV.

“It is found that the protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February. Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” the onscreen text said in English, replicating the spoken announcement in Burmese.

Women hold a portrait of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing at her funeral in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on Sunday. The young woman was shot in the head in when police tried to disperse a crowd there during protests against the military coup. (Reuters)

The junta’s statement also blamed criminals for past protest violence, with the result that “the security force members had to fire back.” Three protesters have been shot dead so far.

The protest movement has embraced nonviolence and only occasionally gotten into shoving matches with police and thrown bottles at them when provoked.

In Yangon, trucks cruised the streets Sunday night blaring warnings against attending gatherings of five or more people. A ban on such gatherings was issued shortly after the coup but not widely enforced as cities saw large daily demonstrations.

The authorities overnight also tried to block off key streets with barriers including tractor-trailers with flattened tires, but they were swept aside by protesters.

The ominous signs of potential conflict drew attention outside Myanmar, with the U.S. reiterating that it stood with the people of Myanmar.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter the U.S. would take firm action “against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government.”

“We call on the military to stop violence, release all those unjustly detained, cease attacks on journalists and activists, and respect the will of the people,” spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter.

WATCH | Military tightens grip on Myanmar protesters:

Night has become a time of fear in Myanmar with the ruling military cracking down on protesters and shutting off the internet to cover up arrests and violence. 2:11

Earlier Sunday, crowds in Myanmar’s capital attended a funeral for the young woman who was the first person confirmed to have been killed in the protests,…



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