Myanmar’s major trade unions called on members to shut down the economy from Monday to support a campaign against last month’s coup, turning up the pressure on the junta as security forces cracked down on demonstrators staging widespread protests. “To continue economic and business activities as usual…will only benefit the military as they repress the energy of the Myanmar people,” an alliance of nine unions said. “The time to take action in defence of our democracy is now. We call for…the full extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy,” they said in a joint statement. A spokesman for the military did not answer calls seeking comment.
The call by the unions came as an official from the party of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi died overnight in police custody. The cause of death of National League for Democracy official Khin Maung Latt was not known. Ba Myo Thein, a member of the upper house of parliament which was dissolved after the coup, said reports of bruising to Khin Maung Latt’s head and body raised suspicions that he had been abused. “It seems that he was arrested at night and tortured severely,” he said. “This is totally unacceptable.” Police in Pabedan, the Yangon district where Khin Maung Latt was arrested, declined to comment.
Some of the biggest protests in recent weeks were staged on Sunday. Police fired stun grenades and tear gas to break up a sit-in by tens of thousands of people in Mandalay, the Myanmar Now media group said. At least 70 people were arrested. Police also launched tear gas and stun grenades in the direction of protesters in Yangon and in the town of Lashio in the northern Shan region, videos posted on Facebook showed. A witness said police opened fire to break up a protest in the historic temple town of Bagan, and several residents said in social media posts that live bullets were used.
Video posted by Myanmar Now showed soldiers beating up men in Yangon, where at least three protests were held despite overnight raids by security forces on campaign leaders and opposition activists.
The UN says security forces have killed more than 50 people to stamp out daily demonstrations in the country since the military took over power on February 1. “They are killing people just like killing birds and chickens,” one protest leader said to the crowd in Dawei, a town in Myanmar’s south. “What will we do if we don’t revolt against them? We must revolt.” Reuters was unable to reach police for comment.
The state-run Global New Light Of Myanmar newspaper quoted a police statement as saying security forces were dealing with the protests in accordance with law. It said the forces were using tear gas and stun grenades to break up rioting that were blocking roads. Over 1,700 people had been detained under the military junta by Saturday, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group. It did not give a figure for overnight detentions.