Myanmar protesters launch ‘garbage strike’ as deaths surpass 500 and thousands of refugees flee to Thailand | World News
Myanmar activists have launched a “garbage strike” to oppose military rule as the number of pro-democracy protesters killed by security forces rose to 500.
Around 510 civilians have been killed since Myanmar’s junta launched a crackdown on protesters demonstrating against the country’s military coup on 1 February, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group.
Some 141 people died on Saturday alone – the bloodiest day of the protests yet as heavy clashes erupted in the South Dagon district of Yangon.
Around eight of 14 civilians killed on Monday were in Yangon, where witnesses said security forces fired a heavier calibre weapon than usual towards protesters crouching behind a makeshift barricade of sandbags.
State television claimed security forces used “riot weapons” to disperse the crowd of “violent terrorist people” who were destroying a pavement and one man was wounded.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Myanmar’s generals to stop the killings and repression of demonstrations.
Protesters have stepped up the civil disobedience campaign by asking Yangon residents to leave rubbish at main road intersections.
“This garbage strike is a strike to oppose the junta,” read a poster on social media. “Everyone can join.”
Pictures shared on social media showed piles of rubbish piling up on the city’s roads.
The campaign comes after residents were urged to dispose of rubbish properly in some neighbourhoods on Monday.
It comes as three groups – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Arakan Army (AA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army – called in a joint statement for the military to stop killing protesters and resolve political issues.
If not, they said they would cooperate with all ethnic groups “who are joining Myanmar’s spring revolution” to defend themselves.
“This kind of brutal killing of innocent civilians is unacceptable,” AA spokesman Khine Thu Kha said.
Meanwhile, violent clashes erupted over the weekend near the Thai border between the army and fighters from Myanmar’s oldest ethnic minority force, the Karen National Union (KNU), which has also denounced the coup.
Around 3,000 villagers fled to Thailand to escape airstrikes when military jets bombed a Karen area after a KNU force overran an army outpost and killed 10 soldiers, activist groups and media said.
Thai authorities denied claims by activist groups that more than 2,000 refugees had been forced back, but a Thai official said it was government policy for the army to block them at the border and deny access to outside aid groups.
A senior official said on Tuesday that Thailand has no policy of turning away refugees fleeing conflict from Myanmar and accepts refugees on a humanitarian basis.
For decades, Myanmar’s military has justified its power over the country by claiming it is the only institution capable of preserving national unity.
It said the November elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party were fraudulent as it seized power from her – an assertion which has since been dismissed by the election commission.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the US was suspending all trade engagement with Myanmar until the return of a democratically elected government.
“The United States supports the people of Burma in their efforts to restore a democratically elected government,” she said in a statement.
“The United States strongly condemns the Burmese security forces’ brutal violence against civilians. The killing of peaceful protesters, students, workers, labour leaders, medics, and children has shocked the conscience of the international community.”
However, foreign criticism and Western sanctions have failed to sway the military generals, and Ms Suu Kyi remains in detention at an undisclosed location, while many other figures in her party are also in custody.