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Myanmar celebrates two years since the military coup with a ‘silent strike’

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Myanmar will mark two years since the military coup with a nationwide “silent strike” on Wednesday.

Protesters also held rallies outside, as civic leaders in exile vowed to end what they called the “illegal power grab” by the military.

The Southeast Asian country’s top generals led a coup in February 2021 after five years of tense power-sharing under a quasi-civilian political system set up by the military.

The overthrow of the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has derailed a decade of reform, international engagement and economic growth, while leaving behind a streak of upended lives.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with the resistance movement battling the army on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on dissent led to the re-imposition of Western sanctions.

The army-backed Security Council is due to issue a statement Wednesday that could decide whether to extend the state of emergency, ahead of promised elections this year that critics describe as a sham aimed at retaining power in the country.

Pictures on social media in the major commercial cities of Yangon and Mandalay showed deserted streets in what opponents of the coup described as a silent protest against the junta.

Democracy activists urged people not to take to the streets between 10am and 3pm

The pictures showed that there was also a rally in Yangon attended by about 100 army supporters, surrounded by soldiers.

In Thailand, hundreds of anti-coup protesters marched in front of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok.

“This year is crucial for us to completely root out the military regime,” said Acharya, a Buddhist monk who attended the gathering.

Others in the crowd chanted, “We are the people, we have the future” and “The revolution must prevail.”

Activists also staged a protest in the Philippine capital, Manila.

The military council discusses the situation

The military-backed National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) met on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Myanmar including the actions of the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration set up by the opposition, and the so-called People’s Defense Forces fighting the army. , reported state media.

“The unusual circumstances of the country under which they are trying to seize state power with methods akin to insurrection and terrorism were discussed,” army-owned media, Myawadi, said on Tuesday.

Mayawadi reported that the National Security Center plans to issue the “necessary statement” on February 1, without giving further details.

A phone call to an Army spokesperson seeking comment was not answered.

Myanmar’s military took power after it complained of fraud in the November 2020 general election that Suu Kyi’s party won. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.

The junta led by Min Aung Hlaing says its crackdown is a legitimate campaign against “terrorists”.

He declared a state of emergency for a year when he took power and has since extended it twice for six months, with the final phase ending on Wednesday.

The Constitution allows for two extensions, although some sections seem to give more flexibility on this issue.

The Government of National Unity issued a statement of defiance, saying that “together with ethnic allies, who have opposed the military for decades, we will end the army’s illegitimate power grab”.

More penalties

The United States and its allies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, imposed more sanctions on Myanmar on Tuesday, with restrictions on energy officials and members of the military council, among others.

The military council has pledged to hold elections in August this year. State media recently announced strict requirements for parties to compete, a move critics say could sideline opponents of the military and consolidate its grip on politics.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was decimated by the coup, with thousands of its members arrested or imprisoned, including Suu Kyi, and many more in hiding.

She described the elections scheduled for this year as “sham” and said she would not recognize them. Western governments have also dismissed the elections as a sham.

According to the United Nations, about 1.2 million people have been displaced and more than 70,000 have left the country, which has accused the army of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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