Police and news reports said the nationwide dawn-to-dusk strike on Wednesday also disrupted public transportation in the capital Dhaka and more than 60 other cities and towns.

Stores and schools closed in Dhaka, the capital city of 10 million people.

Streets were devoid of cars and buses, and most commuters depended on tricycle rickshaws that were allowed by the strikers to operate.

Dozens of opposition activists paraded through central Dhaka shouting "down with the corrupt government". No violence was reported.

Authorities deployed about 8000 security personnel in Dhaka to prevent any violence.

Traffic disrupted

Private TV station ATN Bangla reported that the strike had also disrupted traffic and shut down stores and schools in more than 60 other cities and towns.

The shutdown was sponsored by the main opposition Awami League and 13 small allied parties.

Some 8000 security personnel
have been deployed in Dhaka

Such strikes get little public support, but most schools and shops close anyway, fearing intimidation and violence by strike supporters.

The opposition has launched a campaign of street protests and general strikes to press for the resignation of the four-party coalition government led by Khaleda Zia, the prime minister, accusing it of corruption, incompetence and authoritarianism.

The opposition has asked the government to cut the prices of fuel which were recently increased by up to 15%.

The government has vowed to remain in power until its five-year term ends in October this year.

General strikes are a common opposition tactic directed at embarrassing the government in this South Asian nation.