The normally bustling streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, were eerily quiet on February 1 as the country marked the second anniversary of a coup that deposed democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and installed a military government. Pro-democracy activists urged citizens to stay off the streets and close their businesses to silently show their opposition to the military junta, which has been accused of numerous human rights abuses since the coup.
Since the coup, Burmese citizens have held widespread protests in face of severe repression by security forces. Protesters have been shot at, entire villages have been forced to flee into the forests, and towns have been burned to the ground. The military government has described opposition groups, such as the armed anti-coup People’s Defence Forces, as “terrorists”.
Still, the Burmese continued to show their opposition to the military government, often using creative methods, like banging on pots and pans and practising civil disobedience. But protesting in the streets of Myanmar has become increasingly dangerous. At least 17,000 people have been arrested and 2,900 killed for their participation in demonstrations, according to the human rights monitor AAPP.
To mark the second anniversary of the coup, people protested in silence. Images shared on social networks show the streets completely empty.
1 Feb, 2023
Crowded places in Yangon are empty today since the residents join the #SilentStrike2023 this morning.
This is the sign of our people cannot accept the coup and the coming sham election that junta plan to hold this year.
(Check More👇)#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/bhvC95KtPo
— Robert Minn Khant (@minn_robert) February 1, 2023
Photos shared on Twitter show the streets in Yangon, Myanmar on February 1, 2023.
Live traffic monitors on Google Maps showed little to no traffic on the streets of Yangon on Wednesday, as few cars were out.
It wasn’t just the cities that participated in the protest. Even residents of smaller, rural towns observed the “silent strike”.
“တသံတည်းညီ၊ တချီတည်းရုန်း၊ တိတ်ဆိတ်ငြိမ်သက်ခြင်းသပိတ်” ဖေဖော်ဝါရီ ၁ ရက် မန္တလေးတိုင်း၊ မလှိုင်မြို့ မြင်ကွင်း။#DVB #SilentStrike pic.twitter.com/Et1ZN4B0z4
— DVB Burmese (@dvbburmese) February 1, 2023
Photos on Twitter show the deserted streets of Ma Hlaing City, a township in central Myanmar, on February 1, 2023.
Even Nay Pyi Taw, where the military council is based, is also participating in the Silent Strike held across the country today (Feb 1) against Myanmar’s military dictatorship, with the normally crowded streets clear and quiet.
Photos – Supplied#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/qYonnwnhP7
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) February 1, 2023
Photos shared on Twitter show the town of Nay Pyi Taw, where the military council is located, with its streets empty for the silent strike of February 1, 2023.
Some, however, did dare to take their protests outside. Residents of several towns left their homes to march through the streets carrying banners and holding up three fingers, an anti-coup salute adopted from pop culture.
The protest came as several western countries imposed new sanctions on the military government. The US, UK and Canada made moves to sanction entities linked to aviation and fuel, targeting the military’s ability to carry out air strikes against its citizens.
Meanwhile, the country’s National Defence and Security Council have extended a state of emergency in Myanmar for six more months. The move is likely to delay planned elections in the country. Ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to a total of 33 years of jail time.