Myanmar reportedly saw the largest protests to date since the military coup in early February. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in all parts of the country as part of a general strike. The rallies in the former capital Yangon (Rangoon) in the south, in the city of Mandalay in the north and in the capital Naypyidaw were particularly massive. The European Union meanwhile threatened the junta with sanctions.
Although at least three demonstrators have been shot dead by the forces since the protests began, the opponents of the new junta did not want to be intimidated on Monday, media reported in the Southeast Asian country. “If we resist the dictatorship, they could shoot us. Everyone knows that. But we have to resist the dictatorship, it is our duty,” the portal “Frontier Myanmar” quoted an activist as saying.
“Ordinary people in Myanmar are taking part in an extraordinary act to demonstrate their resistance to the brutal military coup, despite murders, violence and intimidation by security forces,” wrote the Justice for Myanmar activist group on Twitter.
Most of the shops remained closed. “Everyone is joining in,” said a protester at Hledan Junction, Yangon. The intersection has become a starting point for the peaceful rallies.
However, media owned by the military warned of further actions on Monday. “The protesters are now inciting people – especially the emotional teenagers and young people – to take a confrontational course where they will lose their lives,” said state television MRTV.
The EU foreign ministers condemned the takeover of power on Monday “in the strongest possible way,” as a statement said. You offered to support a dialogue to resolve the crisis. At the same time, however, they showed themselves ready to impose sanctions “which are directed against those directly responsible for the military coup and their economic interests”.
In their declaration, the EU foreign ministers did not rule out sanctions in the area of development and trade policy should the situation deteriorate further. Here the EU would have the option of canceling funds and suspending trade benefits. However, EU representatives have regularly pointed out in the past few days that the aim should not be to hit the people in Myanmar with sanctions.
Specifically, in their joint declaration, the ministers called for an “immediate end to the state of emergency”, “the restoration of the legitimate civil government and the opening of the newly elected parliament”. In addition, President U Win Myint and the de facto Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi would have to be released “immediately and unconditionally”. At the same time, the EU representatives called on all sides to renounce violence.
UN General Secretary António Guterres also called for an immediate end to the violent actions of the security forces against the demonstrators. “Today I call on the military in Myanmar to end the repression immediately,” said Guterres in a video message at the start of the session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. “Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights and the will of the people as expressed in past elections.”
The army reverted to power on the night of February 1, taking Aung San Suu Kyi and many members of her government into custody. Since then, numerous other politicians, activists and demonstrators have been arrested. The emergency services also shot demonstrators with live ammunition. The protest movement calls for the reinstatement of Suu Kyi.
Several Western countries have condemned the coup and the violence against demonstrators. The military dismissed this as blatant interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs. The authorities are currently exercising “extreme restraint,” said the Foreign Ministry.
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