Myanmar opposition protests mark general strike anniversary


BANGKOK (AP) – Opponents of military rule gathered Tuesday for protests in Myanmar’s cities, defying threats by the authorities to arrest anyone joining demonstrations against the army’s takeover a year ago.

The protests on Tuesday marked the anniversary of last year’s “Five-Twos Revolution,” a massive nationwide general strike against army rule just weeks after the military seized power.

Activists often call for actions – usually dubbed strikes – on significant occasions or anniversaries, and opposition activists had designated Tuesday’s protest “222222” or “Six-Twos,” derived from the digits in the date.

Photos and video on social media showed scattered small groups of people marching in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and elsewhere.

Because of the risks of arrest or injury, urban street protests are usually carried out by flash mobs, which can dissolve before the security forces crack down.

Protesters in Yangon held banners with written slogans such as “Gathering together again for the Six-Twos Revolution” and “Revolt in the countryside, defiance in the cities,” referring to the armed resistance carried on against the odds in rural areas, and the marches and other actions in urban areas.

They also shouted anti-military chants and raised the three-finger salute of their movement, adopted from the “The Hunger Games” movie series.

Buddhist monks in the central city of Mandalay participated in the protest while collecting alms. Youth there hung banners with anti-military slogans in public areas in the early morning hours.

The military seized power on Feb. 1, 2021, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won the 2020 general election by a landslide and was about to begin a second term in office. Nonviolent protests were met with lethal force by the authorities, escalating the crisis into violence that now includes armed resistance in many parts of the country.

More than 1,560 civilians have been killed and thousands of others arrested by the security forces according to a detailed tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent organization founded in 2000 to track political repression in Myanmar.

Tuesday’s strike was designed to encourage public involvement with minimal risks of confrontations with security forces, Phaung Yoe, a leader of Labor Alliance group and the General Strike Coordination Body, told AP.

“Today’s strike is a powerful medicine for all the young people on the ground, the militants in the jungle, and all the Civil Disobedience Movement staff. Those in the prisons also know that the people are on their side and aim to continue to overcome difficulties,” she said.

She has urged people to bang pots and pans at 8 p.m. Tuesday – a form of protest based on a traditional activity to drive out evil spirits. The military announced last month that the people who bang pots and pans in protest can be charged with high treason under the counter-terrorism law.