Anti-regime groups urge public to join ‘silent strike’ on Friday

Groups opposed to Myanmar’s military junta are calling on the general public to take part in a “silent strike” on Friday as a show of solidarity with the movement to restore civilian rule.

The strike, which is timed to coincide with International Human Rights Day, aims to shut down all public activity in the country between 10am and 4pm on December 10.

A similar strike staged on March 24 to protest the junta’s crackdowns on anti-coup protests attracted widespread international attention, with many news outlets showing deserted streets in Yangon and other urban centres. 

Nan Lin, an activist with a group called the University Alumni Force, said that supporters of the anti-coup movement can also contribute in other ways, by visiting click-to-donate websites that generate income for groups opposed to the regime.

“It would be best if every shop and market closed for the day and everyone stayed home. You could visit click-to-donate websites, spend time with your family, read, clean your house, whatever. But just stay home,” he said.

He added that a successful strike would be a huge boost to public employees taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, as well as those detained by the military.

Public contempt for the regime that seized power in February has gained strength in recent days due to a number of incidents that have provoked outrage.

Last Sunday, junta forces rammed a vehicle into a crowd of protesters in Yangon’s Kyimyindaing Township. The next day, the regime handed down prison sentences to the leaders of the ousted civilian government.

This was followed a day later by the gruesome discovery of the charred corpses of 11 villagers massacred by regime soldiers in Sagaing Region’s Salingyi Township.

La Pyae, an activist with the Yangon-based University Students Union, told Myanmar Now that anger over these incidents has made it easier to generate support for the strike.

“We’ve been handing out pamphlets around Yangon, but many people knew about the strike before we even told them. Some shops have already announced that they won’t be opening or selling anything on December 10,” he said.

“Everyone is very angry. The regime has just crossed so many lines,” he added.

Normally busy roads in Mandalay Region’s Bagan were completely deserted during the last silent strike staged on March 24 (CJ)

Thi Thi Khaing, a 26-year-old company employee living in Yangon, said that she would join the strike by taking leave on Friday.

“I’ll take the day off and just stay home,” she said.

Some businesses have used social media to let their customers know that they would be closed for the day.

“I heard everyone is taking part in the movement, so I will, too. It’s the least I can do as a businessman,” said a restaurant owner who announced his plans on Facebook.

According to Nan Lin, the strike will also serve to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the so-called 10-D Movement, a student-led strike calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained pro-democracy leader who was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize days later.

Many of those who took part in that movement ended up serving long prison sentences. And three decades later, Suu Kyi is again a prisoner of a junta that has refused to recognize the results of an election that her party won in a landslide.

“The military has been burning down villages and attacking entire towns, like Thantlang in Chin State, on a daily basis. But it is also violating the rights of all 50 million people in Myanmar, in one way or another,” said Nan Lin.

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