Myanmar junta forces have arrested over a dozen shop owners who notified customers that their businesses will be closed on February 1, when a nationwide silent strike is planned for the first anniversary of the junta’s coup.
Regime troops also sealed off the detainees’ houses and shops.
he arrests and seizure of properties come as the military regime escalates its efforts to prevent the silent strike from going ahead.
On Tuesday, the junta threatened people not to participate in the strike, saying that anyone taking part in the protest will face prosecution under a wide range of laws which carry harsh jail sentences including life imprisonment.
Immediately after the junta’s announcement, its supporters gave information about people who posted online that their businesses will shut on February 1, or who shared news about the silent strike, to the regime. That prompted the arrest of at least 13 shop owners, eight from Yangon and five from Mandalay, in less than 48 hours.
However, the number of people detained and whose businesses have been forcibly closed is likely to be higher, as further information about arrests becomes clear. Also, a number of family members of those arrested are thought to have been detained by junta forces.
Among the confirmed arrests are the owners of a spring roll shop, a hot pot shop, a seafood distribution and delivery business, a cellphone shop, a café, a shoe shop and a Rakhine restaurant, as well as a makeup artist and a fortune teller.
After sealing off their houses and shops, junta forces placed a large notice at the entrance of each closed building saying, “This land/building is sealed off for supporting terrorist CRPH [Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw], NUG [National Unity Government] and PDF [People’s Defense Force]”.
As well as arrests, junta forces including police, administrators and municipal staff are pressuring shops to remain open as usual on the anniversary of the coup in several cities across the country. Reports have emerged of shop owners in several places being forced to sign agreements stating that that they will open on February 1.
Anti-regime groups nationwide have invited the general public to join the February 1 strike by remaining indoors from 10am to 4pm. At 4pm, the strike will end with communal clapping.
Amid the junta’s oppression, anti-regime forces have urged people to be cautious about sharing their plans to join the silent strike and to respond in a smart and discreet manner.
“If they force shops to open, the shops can. The main point is for people to stay home on that day,” an anti-regime protester said.
The upcoming silent strike will be the third such protest. The first was held on March 24 last year and the second on December 10.
Both the previous silent strikes saw the whole nation of over 54 million people staying out of sight for the day, with even roadside vendors who need to earn money daily refusing to open their businesses. That was a major embarrassment for the junta, which insists that ‘normalcy’ is returning to the country.
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