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Myanmar activists call for new non-cooperation campaign

Published: Updated:

Activists opposed to Myanmar’s junta called on Monday for people to stop paying electricity bills and agricultural loans, and keep their children away from school, scorning the top general’s pledge at a regional summit to end the post-coup crisis.

Scattered protests took place in Myanmar’s big cities on Sunday, a day after Senior General Min Aung Hlaing reached an agreement, at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia.

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The junta chief did not submit to calls for the release of political prisoners, including the leader of the ousted civilian government, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the ASEAN accord lacked any timeline for ending the crisis.

An activist monitoring group says 751 people have been killed by security forces, as the generals unleashed lethal force in the face of sustained protests against their Feb. 1 coup.

Reuters is unable to confirm the death toll. The junta has significantly curbed media freedoms and many journalists have been detained.

A civil disobedience campaign of strikes has crippled the economy and raised the prospect of hunger, international aid agencies have warned.

Pro-democracy activists have called for an intensification of their effort from Monday by refusing to pay electricity bills and agricultural loans, and for children to stop going to school.

“All of us, people in townships, wards and then regions and states must work together to make a successful boycott against the military junta,” activist Khant Wai Phyo said in a speech at a protest in the central town of Monywa on Sunday.

“We don’t participate in their systems, we don’t cooperate with them.”

A spokesman for the junta did not answer calls seeking comment.

Hundreds of protesters were on the streets in several towns on Monday, media reported. There were no immediate reports of violence.

Activists criticized the agreement that came out of the ASEAN meeting, a so-called five-point consensus that included an end to violence, starting a dialogue among all parties, accepting aid, and appointing a special ASEAN envoy who would be allowed to visit Myanmar.

The agreement did not mention political prisoners although the statement said the meeting heard calls for their release. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group says 3,431 people are in detention for opposing the coup.

This e holfile photo taken and received from an anonymous source via Facebook on April 1, 2021 shows a protester making the three-finger salute. (File photo: Facebook / AFP)
This e holfile photo taken and received from an anonymous source via Facebook on April 1, 2021 shows a protester making the three-finger salute. (File photo: Facebook / AFP)

Suu Kyi, 75, has been charged with various offences including violating a colonial-era official secrets act that could see her jailed for 14 years.

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and has led Myanmar’s struggle against military rule for decades. Her party won a second term in November.

The election commission said the vote was fair but the military said fraud at the polls had forced it to seize power.

Suu Kyi is due to appear via video link for another hearing in her case on Monday.

She has only been allowed to talk with her lawyers via video link in the presence of security officials and it is not known if she is even aware of the turmoil that has engulfed the country since the military seized power.

The European Union welcomed the five-point consensus as an “encouraging step forward” in ASEAN’s efforts to resolve the crisis, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a statement.

“The European Union will also continue to call for the immediate release of all political prisoners,” he said.

“We stand ready to support the dialogue with all key stakeholders who wish to resolve the situation in good faith, with a view to facilitating a swift reinstatement of power to the legitimate democratic institutions.”

Read more:

NGOs urge ASEAN to include ousted Myanmar lawmakers in upcoming crisis summit

Millions face hunger in Myanmar as crisis worsens: United Nations

Myanmar sees ‘blue shirt’ protests over detentions, junta outlaws unity govt