Myanmar coup opponents hold silent strike

Anti-coup activists in Myanmar have held motorcycle rallies in defiance of military rulers.
Anti-coup activists in Myanmar have held motorcycle rallies in defiance of military rulers.

Opponents of military rule in Myanmar have observed a "silent strike", with many staying home to mourn the more than 700 people killed in protests against a February 1 coup, while others wearing black held small marches in other cities.

Many Myanmar citizens, infuriated by the return of military rule after five years of civilian government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, have been taking to the streets day after day.

"Let's make the roads silent," protest leader Ei Thinzar Maung posted on her Facebook page.

"We have to stage a Silent Strike to show our sorrow for the martyrs who have scarified their lives. The most silent voice is the loudest."

Friday is the fourth day of the five-day traditional Buddhist New Year holiday, known as Thingyan. Most people this year are shunning the usual festivities to focus on their campaign against the generals who overthrew Suu Kyi's government and locked up her and many others.

Streets in the main city of Yangon were largely deserted, residents said, while black-clad protesters held small rallies in half a dozen cities and towns, media reported. Motorcycle rallies were also held.

There were no immediate reports of violence but overnight, two people were shot and killed in the central town of Myingyan, Radio Free Asia reported.

The military has also been rounding up its critics and has published the names of more than 200 people wanted under a law that makes it illegal to encourage mutiny or dereliction of duty in the armed forces.

Two prominent protest organisers were arrested on Thursday along with an actor and singer, both known for speaking out against the coup.

Late on Thursday, soldiers raided a famous Buddhist monastery in the second city of Mandalay and arrested two people, the Myanmar Now media group reported.

A previously unknown group called the Ayeyarwaddy Federal Army said on Facebook it aimed to fight the military to restore an elected government and protect the people and it called for volunteers.

It gave no details about how it aimed to take on the well-equipped and seasoned army, which has been battling ethnic minority insurgents for decades.

The European Union has agreed to impose sanctions on another 10 individuals linked to the coup and to target two businesses run by the armed forces for the first time in protest at the military takeover, two diplomats said.

While the EU has an arms embargo on Myanmar and targeted 11 senior military officials last month, the decision to target the two companies is the most significant response for the bloc since the coup.

EU diplomats told Reuters in March that parts of the military's conglomerates, Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), would be targeted, barring EU investors and banks from doing business with them.

In rare action by an Asian company, South Korea's POSCO Coated & Color Steel Co Ltd (POSCO C&C) said on Friday it would end its joint venture with MEHL.

Australian Associated Press