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Junta threatens ‘silent strike’ participants with major criminal charges 

Those who adhere to or promote revolutionary forces’ calls to close businesses and stay home in protest on the upcoming coup anniversary could face life in prison, the military warned on Tuesday.

On January 22, the General Strike Coordination Body (GSCB) began promoting a February 1 “silent strike” in which all civilians are asked to refrain from going out in public—for work or errands—from 10am until 4pm that day.

The move, according to GSCB, is to empty the streets of the country in acknowledgement of those killed or arrested by the junta’s forces during the last year. 

The military council responded to the call three days later by announcing that anyone found to be taking part in or promoting the silent strike would see their property confiscated and face multiple criminal charges. 

Those charges include Section 52a of the Counterterrorism Law, Section 124a and 505a of the Penal Code, and Section 33a of the Telecommunications Law. 

The terrorism charge carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and Section 124a—for sedition—carries a life sentence of 20 years. The other charges are accompanied by three to five years in prison. 

“We just want the military to return the power to the people because we are going to take it back in any way possible,” Chit Win Maung, a leader of the strike committee in Magway, told Myanmar Now.

Junta threats were to be expected, Mandalay protest leader Dr Tayzar San said, but he does not think the warnings will deter people from opposing the coup regime. 

“If we were scared, our revolution wouldn’t have made it this far in the first place,” he said. “I am promoting this strike because I believe in our people. This is not a strike that can be carried out easily.”

In southern Shan State’s Lawksawk Township, police and junta administrative staff have recently been pressuring area shops to commit to continuing business as usual on the coup anniversary, a local said. 

“Three groups of eight junta personnel—each with police officers, administrators and City Development Committee staff members—forced the owners of every shop to sign pledges that they would remain open on February 1,” he told Myanmar Now. 

In light of the tension, executive committee member of the Mandalay Protest Alliance Force Thura Aung said he has been urging people to be careful about sharing their plans to participate in the strike.

“We want to tell the people to respond to the military in a smart and discreet manner. Don’t post on social media that you’re going to close your shops,” he said. 

The February 1 silent strike would be the third in the last year. Others were held on March 24 and December 10 of 2021.

Anti-dictatorship protests have been ongoing in many forms since the February military coup. Since the junta attempted the seizure of power from the elected government, their armed forces have killed a total of 1,493 civilians and imprisoned 8,788, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP). 

The military council has dismissed the AAPP’s figures as exaggerated. 

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