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‘Silent strike’ against junta empties Myanmar streets

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Myanmar anti-coup demonstrators staged a “silent strike” Friday, closing businesses and emptying the streets of cities and towns across the country to protest against military rule.

The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the February coup, with the economy in tatters and more than 1,300 people killed by security forces, according to a local monitoring group.

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The streets of downtown Yangon -- Myanmar’s commercial hub -- were deserted, with no street vendors and little traffic, AFP correspondents said.

The famous Shwedagon pagoda, a Buddhist site usually bustling with visitors and pilgrims, was also quiet.

“Restaurants, shops, and the main market are all closed,” a resident of second city Mandalay told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“There have been no street vendors since this morning, no early morning walkers.”

Pictures in local media also showed empty streets in the southeastern city of Mawlamyine and in towns across northern Sagaing region.

The US embassy in Yangon advised its citizens to stay off the streets Friday, citing a heightened risk of violence by security forces against any gatherings or protests.

Mass demonstrations that rocked Myanmar’s cities and towns immediately after the coup were met by a brutal and indiscriminate crackdown by the military.

Those still taking to the streets to protest now do so in smaller flashmobs lasting just minutes in order to avoid arrest.

Myanmar soldiers rammed a car into one such rally in Yangon last Sunday, killing five people, according to local media.

The junta said only three protesters were injured.

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