Myanmar Junta Threatens Silent Strikers With Life in Prison

By The Irrawaddy 26 January 2022

Myanmar’s junta has warned people not to participate in next week’s silent strike planned for the anniversary of the February 1 coup, saying that anyone taking part in the strike will face legal action, including possibly being charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law.

Anyone who closes a business or shop for a day or who claps in support of the strike could face charges carrying punishment of up to life imprisonment, according to an announcement released by the military regime on Tuesday.

The warning is an attempt to prevent the protest after the previous silent strikes saw the whole nation of over 54 million people staying out of sight for the day, with even roadside vendors who need to earn money daily refusing to open their businesses. That was a major embarrassment for the junta, which insists that ‘normalcy’ is returning to the country.

The upcoming silent strike will be the third such protest. The first was held on March 24 last year and the second on December 10. In response to the last strike, junta forces smashed up shops that were closed and prevented some store owners from re-opening their shops for days afterwards.

Anti-regime groups nationwide have invited the general public to join the February 1 strike by remaining indoors from 10am to 4pm. At 4pm, the strike will end with communal clapping.

The silent strike has been named, “Let’s fight for the way home” as a vow for the people to regain power and for the people who have had to flee since the coup to be able to return to their homes this year with a victory.

In the junta’s Tuesday’s announcement, the regime said that the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the National Unity Government and their subordinates, which the junta has declared to be “terrorist groups”, are inciting people to join the silent strike “to disrupt state stability and intimidate the public”.

The announcement stated that people who join the protest or who share information about it would be prosecuted under existing laws, including charges of assisting terrorist groups under the Counter-Terrorism Law, as well as other offences under the Penal Code and the Electronic Transactions Act.

On Tuesday night, junta forces also told residents in some areas of Mandalay and Yangon not to participate in the strike or they would be prosecuted.

Responding to the regime’s warnings, Tayzar San, a prominent protest leader from Mandalay, wrote on his Facebook: “It is clear that the terrorist regime is quite shocked by the unity and collective strength of our people. And so they will try various way to suppress the peoples’ all out anti-regime movement”.

“’Freedom is not free, it comes at a cost. I would like to urge our people to continue to fight to achieve what we want in 2022,” added Tayzar San.

The junta-controlled Home Affairs Ministry also held a meeting to spread the regime’s announcement nationwide and to organize how to prosecute any violations of it.

A Yangon resident said that the junta’s threats would not deter people from participating in the silent strike, while vowing to join it himself.

“The more they oppress us, the more we will rise. We will stay home or go outside as we want,” said the man.

Since the coup, military regime forces have killed around 1,500 people and arrested more than 11,700. Around 9,000 people remain behind bars.

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