(CNN)Huge crowds brought Myanmar’s towns and cities to a standstill Monday in a mass strike against the coup, despite a warning from the military junta that protesters will “suffer loss of life” if demonstrations confront security forces.
Activists had called for a historic strike following the most violent weekend since protests against the February 1 coup began, in which police opened fire on protesters in the second largest city, Mandalay, on Saturday, leaving at least two dead.Images from photographers in the country and on social media Monday showed tens of thousands of people packing the streets in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw, as well as in towns and cities across the country, including in southeastern Dawei, in Shan state’s Taunggyi, in Ayeyarwady’s Pathein, Kachin state’s Myitkyina, and in one of the country’s poorest regions Chin state. In an ominous statement Sunday evening, the military junta said it could use lethal force against protesters. “It is found that protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February. Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” the State Administration Council — the name for the military junta now controlling the country — declared Sunday evening on state broadcaster MRTV.A protester waves the National League for Democracy (NLD) flag while others take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 22.Read MoreVideo from social media Sunday night and Monday morning showed barbed wire blocking roads to some foreign embassies in the largest city, Yangon, the focus point for many recent protests. Footage also showed what appeared to be police and military vehicles rolling through the streets. Protesters called for all offices and shops to be closed on Monday, with activists urging all citizens to join the protest, known as the “Five Twos” — or the 22222 strike — in reference to Monday’s date.”22.2.2021 will be a big historic day. Keep watching us and pray for us, friends,” leading protest activist group, the Civil Disobedience Movement said in a tweet Sunday.Weekend protestsFor more than two weeks, thousands of people in villages, towns and cities across Myanmar have come out to peacefully protest or take part in a non-violent civil disobedience movement against the military takeover, calling for the generals to hand back power and release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically-elected officials.By day, Myanmar's protesters are defiant dissenters. By night, they're terrified of being dragged from their beds by the juntaThe junta has attempted to stop protests by imposing bans on gatherings of more than five people and curfews in certain areas and cutting the internet at night. They have also deployed troops to major cities, including members of elite counter-insurgency divisions documented to be engaged in human rights abuses and violent campaigns against ethnic minorities. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB) said at least 640 people have been detained in relation to the coup.But that has not stopped the protesters, who gathered in large numbers on Sunday following the fatal shootings in Mandalay.In Yangon, demonstrators marched outside the US Embassy waving banners that read “Help Myanmar.” In Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state in northern Myanmar, protesters could be seen chanting slogans and waving flags while riding on motorbikes.Protesters gather for a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 22.And in the capital, Naypyidaw, large crowds gathered to attend the funeral of a young woman, who died on Friday after being shot in the head during an anti-coup protest. Mya Thweh Thweh Khine, who was shot just before her 20th birthday, was the first known casualty of pro-democracy protests.Video of her funeral procession showed a hearse with her picture in front and a convoy of vehicles driving out of a hospital. As the procession drove through the streets, people on motorbikes and bystanders were seen raising the three-finger salute from the Hunger Games movies, which has been adopted by protesters.Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that authorities were “exercising utmost restraint through minimum use of force” when dealing with the protests. It also said that statements and remarks made by some foreign countries are “tantamount to flagrant interference in internal affairs of Myanmar.”In a Facebook post, the ministry called on diplomats to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state” and reiterated that a “free and fair general election” will take place. A state of emergency is in effect in Myanmar for one year but the junta have not given a timeframe by which it will hold elections.International condemnation of military actionSeveral countries have condemned the coup and violence against protesters.Singapore warned Saturday that there will be “serious adverse consequences” for Myanmar if the situation there continues to escalate. Singapore, which was the biggest foreign investor in Myanmar in the fiscal year 2019-2020, said it was “inexcusable” for Myanmar police and security forces to use lethal weapons against unarmed civilians.The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Saturday urged the military junta and “all security forces in Myanmar to immediately stop violence against civilians.”Protesters hold signs featuring Aung San Suu Kyi as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 22. In Mandalay on Sunday, stringers for CNN confirmed that live rounds and tear gas were used to disperse people at an anti-coup protest in the city. Volunteer emergency workers cited by Reuters and AFP news agencies said that at least two people died when police opened fire on protesters. The news agencies reported that between 20 and 30 people were injured in the crackdown. In video seen by CNN, a large crowd of people could be seen running from police and taking cover behind whatever shelter they could find. In another video, a person could be seen being stretchered away by medics. The condition of the patient was not immediately clear.The military junta defended the actions of security forces in the state broadcast Sunday, saying they used “prescribed crowd dispersal methods” and blamed “some notorious ex-criminals and their gangs” who “used sticks, knives, stones, catapults, and other weapon-like materials to attack the security force members.” Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupPolice stand guard near the US embassy as protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Monday, February 22.Hide Caption 1 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters hold signs featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 22. Hide Caption 2 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters gather for a demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 3 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA man is carried after police dispersed protesters in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 20. Hide Caption 4 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA police truck uses a water cannon to disperse protesters in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday, February 20. Security forces in Myanmar ratcheted up their pressure against anti-coup protesters Saturday, using water cannons, tear gas, slingshots and rubber bullets.Hide Caption 5 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA police officer aims a gun towards protesters during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 6 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA protester holds a poster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi as he sits in front of police in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, February 19.Hide Caption 7 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters flash the three-fingered salute during a rally in downtown Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 8 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupFlower tributes and sympathy messages are left in Yangon for Mya Thweh Thweh Khine. The 20-year-old was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyidaw, and she died on February 19.Hide Caption 9 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters block a major road during a demonstration in Yangon on Wednesday, February 17.Hide Caption 10 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupDemonstrators block a Yangon bridge with their cars on February 17.Hide Caption 11 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupBuddhist monks march during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on Tuesday, February 16.Hide Caption 12 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA Suu Kyi banner is displayed during demonstrations in Yangon on Monday, February 15.Hide Caption 13 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupSoldiers carry barricades in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 14 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupElected members of Parliament wave to protesters in Yangon as police surround the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, on February 15.Hide Caption 15 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupMedics clear the way as an injured protester is carried away for treatment in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 15.Hide Caption 16 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupPeople gather around an armored vehicle in Yangon on Sunday, February 14.Hide Caption 17 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupYoung people in Yangon take part in an anti-coup hip-hop performance on February 14.Hide Caption 18 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters demonstrate in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 19 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA child runs alongside an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 20 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters march through the city of Shwebo on Saturday, February 13.Hide Caption 21 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupMembers of the Myanmar Photographers Association hold up their cameras as they call for Suu Kyi’s release on February 13.Hide Caption 22 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupPolice detain a protester during a demonstration in Mawlamyine on February 12.Hide Caption 23 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupFarmers ride a tractor with a Suu Kyi poster during a demonstration in Thongwa on February 12.Hide Caption 24 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA protester dressed as Lady Justice makes a three-finger salute as she takes part in a demonstration in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 25 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters demonstrate in Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on February 11.Hide Caption 26 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupGen. Min Aung Hlaing, the country’s military leader, makes a televised statement on February 11. He announced that more than 23,000 prisoners were set to be granted amnesty and released that day. It was unclear what offenses the prisoners were convicted of.Hide Caption 27 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupBodybuilders take part in a protest in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 28 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupPeople hold up letters that spell “get out dictators” during a demonstration at Inle Lake on February 11.Hide Caption 29 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA protester carries a child during a march in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 30 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupWomen in wedding gowns holds up anti-coup placards in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 31 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters in the capital of Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 32 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA protester pleads for police to refrain from using tear gas against demonstrators in Yangon on February 9.Hide Caption 33 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupPolice fire water cannons at protesters in Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 34 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters gather in Yangon on February 8.Hide Caption 35 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters flash three-fingered salutes as they face rows of riot police in Naypyidaw on February 8.Hide Caption 36 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupHospital workers show three-finger salutes during a demonstration in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 37 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupA rally takes place in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 38 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 39 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupProtesters give roses to riot police in Yangon on February 6.Hide Caption 40 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupYangon residents bang objects to show support for Suu Kyi and her party on February 5. Hide Caption 41 of 42 Photos: Protesters resist Myanmar coupSoldiers block a road near Myanmar’s Parliament on February 2, a day after the coup.Hide Caption 42 of 42UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in a tweet that he was “horrified at more loss of life” as the military “escalates its brutality in Myanmar.” “From water cannons to rubber bullets to tear gas and now hardened troops firing point blank at peaceful protesters. This madness must end, now!” he said. Following the shooting, Facebook deleted a page run by the Myanmar military, the company said.”In line with our global policies, we’ve removed the Tatmadaw True News Information Team Page from Facebook for repeated violations of our Community Standards prohibiting incitement of violence and coordinating harm,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
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