Supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement are engaging in a nationwide boycott of all economic activity Wednesday to mark the two-year anniversary of the military’s overthrow of the civilian government.
Leaders urged merchants to close their shops and residents to stay home as part of a “silent strike” against the military junta over its February 1, 2021 ouster of Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically-elected government. Photos posted on social media showed the streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, largely deserted.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the November 2020 general elections in a landslide over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. The junta claimed widespread electoral fraud in the elections as its reason for toppling the civilian government and invalidating the results. The civilian electoral commission denied the allegations before it was disbanded.
The coup immediately led to anti-junta demonstrations across Myanmar that has led to the deaths of more than 2,900 civilians and more than 18,000 arrested at the hands of the military, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent monitoring group. The unrest has also evolved into a deadly rural conflict between the military and armed forces assisted by several ethnic rebel groups who have been fighting for decades for greater autonomy.
Elected lawmakers who were barred from taking their seats after the 2021 coup have formed a shadow government, the National Unity Government, which has called for a national uprising against the junta. Suu Kyi, who led the civilian government as state councilor, is serving a combined 33 years in prison after her conviction in a series of trials on several criminal charges brought against her by the military.
The junta is expected to announce Wednesday whether or not it will extend a state of emergency or go forward with plans to hold general elections this year, which activists have already denounced as a sham.
The United States, Australia, Britain and Canada announced a new set of sanctions against Myanmar’s junta on the eve of Wednesday’s anniversary, including the country’s military-approved election commission and military-backed corporations.
The most significant sanctions were imposed by Britain and Canada against companies who have supplied the junta with aviation fuel to carry out airstrikes against pro-democracy forces and their ethnic rebel allies in Myanmar’s countryside.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.