Braving threats of harsh punishment from the regime, Myanmar’s people once again managed a collective show of defiance against the junta by organizing a successful nationwide silent strike on Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the military coup in the country.
The campaign was a success, with people nationwide staying indoors, leaving the country’s public places mostly deserted. It was the third time that the Myanmar people have staged such a strike, sending a clear message to the regime and the world that the military junta can’t control their daily activities, let alone their lives.
The first strike was held on March 24 last year and the second on Dec. 10. Both turned out to be huge successes, causing the regime serious embarrassment.
Tuesday’s strike proved even more significant because it succeeded in the face of more concerted attempts by the regime to counter it, including making arrests. The regime was desperate to prevent the campaign, likely because it was held on the first anniversary of the coup.
With the exception of some pro-military rallies and campaigns organized by the regime, however, roads in cities across the country, including the commercial capital Yangon, the second-biggest city Mandalay and the administrative capital Naypyitaw, were deserted as people stayed indoors during the hours of the strike, which was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
At local and wholesale markets, including the busiest ones across the country, there were no customers, despite those markets and shops being forced to open by the junta.
A shop owner at Yangon’s Insein Market told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that all shop owners requested customers not to go shopping on the day of silent strike, though the owners would have to open their shops due to the threats from the junta.
The military regime had warned that anyone who closed their business or shop on the day could face charges carrying sentences of up to life imprisonment, including confiscation of their properties.
In an attempt to discourage the protest, the regime arrested over a dozen shop owners who notified customers that they would close their businesses on Feb. 1.
The owner at the market said, “We had to open our shops out of fear of the regime. But we don’t accept military rule.”
In other attempts to interrupt the silent strike, the military regime organized shopping trips, transporting people to supermarkets in Yangon, as well as asking junta-appointed village and ward administrators to organize car or motorbike rides on the Yangon-Pyay highway in Hmawbi Township to make sure there were people on the road during the hours of the strike.
The junta also organized marathon and bicycle races among pro-military supporters in Bago and Mandalay in order to disturb the silent strike, while giving one liter of free gas to every motorcyclist during the hours of the strike in Mandalay.
Pro-military rallies featuring the families of regime soldiers and military supporters were also organized by the junta in some cities including Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw on Tuesday with people shouting slogans against the civilian National Unity Government (NUG), Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and People’s Defense Force, and waving flags. Were it not for the slogans and the flags, the rallies could easily have been mistaken for funeral processions for coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, as people at the forefront of the columns held large portraits of him. In Myanmar, it is customary for someone holding a picture of the deceased to walk at the forefront of a funeral procession.
However, the nationwide silent strike on Feb. 1 again saw the whole nation of over 54 million people staying out of sight for the day. At 4 p.m., the strike ended with communal clapping. In response to the successful strikes, regime forces arrested more than three dozen central Yangon residents who joined in the communal applause.
After the strike, U Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s human rights minister, wrote in a post on his Facebook account “Let’s keep up the revolt against the military regime, which was frightened by the silence of the people, with various kinds of struggle.”
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