Businesses have closed their doors as tens of thousands of protesters gathered in towns and cities across Myanmar as part of a general strike against the February 1 coup, despite a chilling message from the military that confrontation would cost more lives.
As well as local shops, international chains announced closures on Monday, including Yum Brands Inc’s KFC and delivery service Food Panda, owned by Delivery Hero. Southeast Asian company Grab stopped delivery services too but left its taxis running.
Forty-two-year-old Zayar, who owns a drinking water business, said he closed up to join the protest as part of the civil disobedience campaign.
Protesters were also out in towns around the country, including Myitkyina in the north, Bhamo near the Chinese border, and the central town of Pyinmana, according to media reports.
State-owned media MRTV warned protesters against action. “Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a path of confrontation where they will suffer loss of life,” it said.
Authorities were “exercising utmost restraint”, the foreign ministry said in a statement. It rebuked some countries for remarks it described as flagrant interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs.
On Sunday, hundreds of people attended the funeral in the capital Naypyidaw of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, a young woman who became a symbol of resistance after being shot in the head on February 9 while protesting.
Two more protesters were killed on Saturday when police opened fire in the city of Mandalay, marking the bloodiest day in the campaign for the restoration of democracy.
Several Western countries have condemned the coup and decried the violence against protesters.
Residents in Yangon said the roads to some embassies, including the US embassy, were blocked on Monday. The diplomatic missions have become gathering points for protesters calling for foreign intervention.
The army seized power after alleging fraud in November 8 elections that were swept by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, has been detained along with senior NLD leaders. The electoral commission, however, has dismissed the fraud complaints.
Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 640 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup – including former members of government and opponents of the army takeover.