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Protesters defy junta on coup anniversary

YANGON (AFP) – Anti-coup protesters across Myanmar defied a junta order not to mark the first anniversary of the military’s power-grab with a silent strike and clapping protests yesterday, AFP correspondents said.

The military takeover that ended the country’s brief democratic interlude and toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi triggered mass protests and a crackdown on dissent.

Struggling to contain the backlash and contending with daily clashes, the junta has killed over 1,500 civilians, according to a local monitoring group. Swathes of the country are under the control of anti-coup fighters.

Residents across commercial hub Yangon and in the second city of Mandalay clapped en masse at 4pm, AFP correspondents and locals said, marking the end of a “silent strike” against the coup.

The junta ordered shops to stay open yesterday but the streets of Yangon began emptying at 10am, a scene that was repeated in Mandalay and the southern Tanintharyi region.

Protesters form lines as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. PHOTO: AFP

Mandalay’s famous jade market opened in the morning, but saw little traffic, a resident told AFP.

“No one is going out on the streets around my area and security forces are patrolling,” the
resident said.

“I’m staying at home playing online games to participate in the silent strike.”

A similar shutdown in December emptied the streets of cities and towns across the country.
Yesterday morning, local media showed isolated flashmobs in Yangon and Mandalay, where protesters unfurled pro-democracy banners and set off flares.

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

In comments published yesterday, junta Chief Min Aung Hlaing repeated the military’s claim that it had been forced to take power following election fraud by Suu Kyi’s party in a 2020 vote that international observers said was largely free and fair. Fresh polls will be called once stability is restored, Min Aung Hlaing told the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

The junta’s information team released undated video handouts yesterday showing pro-military demonstrations in unspecified parts of the country, some holding national flags and chanting slogans in support of the army.

Others held banners denouncing the ‘People’s Defence Forces’ that sprung up to fight the military and dealt painful blows to junta troops with guerilla ambushes and mine attacks.

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