Myanmar begins general strike in face of military threats

Myanmar began a nationwide general strike on Monday despite a curfew, road blockades and more overnight arrests, as the United States warned it would “take firm action” against the military if it continued to crack down on people calling for the restoration of the country’s elected government.

At least two people were killed after violence over the weekend as thousands gathered on Sunday in Naypyidaw for the funeral of 20-year-old Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who was shot in the head at protests in the capital on February 9 and died from her injuries on Friday.

The deaths over the weekend, one of them a 16-year-old, took place in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city after police fired live bullets to try and disperse the crowd. At least 20 people were injured.

The violence has raised alarm with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters was “unacceptable”.

On Sunday night, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned the violence.

“The United States will continue to take firm action against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government,” Blinken wrote on Twitter, referring to Myanmar by an earlier name. The US has already imposed sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup on February 1 and other military officers.

Small groups began gathering in Yangon in defiance of a curfew and a statement broadcast on state television warning the protesters were “inciting the people” to a “confrontation path where they will suffer loss of life”.