Activists stage ‘silent strike’ as Myanmar marks coup anniversary under fresh sanctions

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Myanmar’s junta marked one year in power on Tuesday despite fresh foreign sanctions as demonstrators promised to rally against the army and its bloody crackdown.

The military takeover ending the Southeast Asian country’s brief democratic interlude has triggered mass protests and a crackdown on dissent with more than 1,500 civilians killed, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta is struggling to contain the backlash unleashed by the coup, with daily clashes and swathes of the country remaining outside of its control.

In comments published Tuesday, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing repeated the military’s claim it had been forced to take power following fraud in 2020 elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party that international observers said were largely free and fair.

It would hold “free and fair” polls by August 2023 if stability in the country is restored, he told the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

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The streets of commercial hub Yangon were busy Tuesday morning, AFP correspondents said, as residents ran errands and met friends ahead of a “silent strike” protest expected to begin around 10 am local time.

A similar strike in December emptied the streets of cities and towns across the country.

On Tuesday morning images on local media showed around a dozen young protesters gather in a flashmob in Yangon, unfurl a pro-democracy banner and set off a flare.

Ahead of the anniversary, the junta has threatened to seize businesses that shutter their doors and warned that noisy rallies or sharing anti-military “propaganda” could lead to treason or terrorism charges.


The United States, Britain and Canada unveiled coordinated sanctions on Myanmar officials Monday, including on officials involved in the trial of Suu Kyi.

Washington sanctioned Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Tin Oo, who it said were closely involved in the “politically motivated” prosecution of Suu Kyi.

“We are coordinating these actions with the United Kingdom and Canada… to further promote accountability for the coup and the violence perpetrated by the regime,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Citing “unspeakable violence against civilians,” the undermining of regional stability and “rampant” corruption, President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was working with allies to “hold accountable” those responsible.

Another trial for Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi has already been sentenced to six years in jail for illegally importing and owning walkie talkies, incitement against the military and breaking Covid-19 rules.

The Nobel laureate will face a further trial on charges of influencing the country’s election commission during the 2020 polls that saw her National League for Democracy (NLD) party defeat a military-aligned rival, a source with knowledge of the case said.

The case is expected to be wrapped up within six months. Former president and NLD stalwart Win Myint will face the same charge.

On Monday, ousted Myanmar lawmakers from a shadow “National Unity Government” addressed the media in Paris.

Human rights spokesman Aung Myo Min urged the international community to implement an arms embargo and tighten economic sanctions to cut off all trade with the regime.

UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer called for a “humanitarian pause” in violence to allow for the delivery of aid, warning that hundreds of thousands had been displaced by conflict.

Following Washington’s lead, Britain imposed sanctions against Thida Oo, Tin Oo and a third person, the chair of the country’s election commission.

“The Burmese military are using ever more brutal and desperate tactics to try to cling on to power,” said Anna Roberts, head of Burma Campaign UK, welcoming the fresh sanctions.

“The British government is doing exactly the right thing… however, they need to speed up the pace of new sanctions. It is vital to maximise pressure now while the military are more vulnerable.”


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