Myanmar Set to Shut Down With 'Silent Strike' to Defy Junta

By The Irrawaddy 9 December 2021

People across Myanmar are vowing to take part in a “silent strike” on Friday, with many businesses and shops announcing they will be closed for the day and people planning to stay home with the aim of shutting down entire towns and cities, in a sign of their rejection of military rule.

Timed to coincide with Human Rights Day, which falls on Dec. 10, the strike is the Myanmar people’s deliberate attempt to defy the regime and make clear that it has no authority to rule their lives and activities. A slogan associated with the strike proclaims: “We own our town. Staying active or silent is our choice. They [the regime] shall absolutely never be allowed to rule.”

The Homalin People’s Administrative Team in Sagaing Region, which was formed by anti-regime protesters, said in a statement on Wednesday that they urged locals to join the strike, adding that on Friday, as the world reaffirms its commitment to promote and protect human rights for all people, Myanmar’s people will continue to face a vortex of repression and human rights atrocities by the junta, which has been accused of crimes against humanity. Thus, the silent strike was planned for the day to show the Myanmar people’s continued opposition to the junta.

The military seized power from the democratically elected government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1 and formed its so-called governing body, the State Administration Council. Struggling to rule the country in the face of public resistance, the regime has in recent months escalated its crackdown on opponents of its rule.

According to one rights group’s count, regime forces have killed at least 1,318 civilians and arrested some 10,700 people over the past 10 months.

A general strike committee, as well as student unions and local public administration groups across the country, have urged the public to remain indoors and businesses to close from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday to show solidarity with the silent strike.

Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, was silent on March 24 as people kept off the streets as part of a nationwide silent strike. / CJ

“The silent voice is the loudest… Through the strike we will show that we don’t let our blood grow cold [and become complacent], that human rights have been extinguished [at the hands of the junta], and we will remember our heroic martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the revolution,” said Tayzar San, a prominent protest leaders from Mandalay.

The junta’s most recent acts of brutality—ramming a vehicle into a group of protesters in Yangon on Sunday and burning villagers to death in Salingyi, Sagaing Region on Tuesday—have sparked outrage and saw the call for a strike to go viral, both online and by word of mouth at markets and among vendors.

Many business and shop owners, as well as online sellers and vendors, said on Wednesday and Thursday that they would take a day off on Friday, while others said they will stay at home in order to participate in the strike.

In response, regime forces reportedly issued threats against vendors in Magwe Region, warning them to open their stalls on Friday.

A fake statement purportedly issued by the National League for Democracy (NLD)—the party led by detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—appeared, urging the public not to observe the silent strike. The ruse failed, however, as no one believed the statement, which was widely believed to have been spread by military-linked social media accounts.

An earlier silent strike on March 24 disproved the junta’s claim to have reasserted “normalcy” in the country after the coup, and gave the public another channel through which to show their defiance of the junta. It had a big impact, with the streets of Yangon and other cities practically deserted.

On Friday, activists and other civilians also plan to stage a “Black Campaign”, in which they will post pictures of themselves wearing black and flashing three-finger salutes of resistance.

The normally busy streets of downtown Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, were deserted during an earlier silent strike on March 24. / CJ

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