Most people in Myanmar are shunning usual festivities this year to focus on their campaign against the junta who overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on February 1.
Opponents of military rule in Myanmar are observing a silent strike.
Many opted to stay home on Friday to mourn the more than 700 people killed in protests against a February 1 coup.
Those who are out protesting, are doing it silently and in much smaller groups in cities across the country.
Many Myanmar citizens, infuriated by the return of military rule after five years of civilian government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, have been taking to the streets day after day with activists thinking up new ways to show opposition as the security forces step up their suppression.
"Let's make the roads silent," protest leader Ei Thinzar Maung posted on her Facebook page.
"We have to stage a Silent Strike to show our sorrow for the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives. The most silent voice is the loudest."
Friday is the fourth day of the five-day traditional Buddhist New Year holiday, known as Thingyan.
Streets in the main city of Yangon were largely deserted, residents said while black-clad protesters held small rallies in half a dozen cities and towns, media reported.
There were no immediate reports of violence but overnight, two people were shot and killed in the central town of Myingyan, Radio Free Asia reported.
A spokesman for the junta could not be reached for comment.
The military has also been rounding up its critics and has published the names of more than 200 people wanted under a law that makes it illegal to encourage mutiny or dereliction of duty in the armed forces.
Two prominent protest organisers were arrested on Thursday along with an actor and singer, both known for speaking out against the coup.
Late on Thursday, soldiers raided a famous Buddhist monastery in the second city of Mandalay and arrested two people, Myanmar Now media group reported.
Youth in Yangon’s Tamwe Township urge the public to observe a “Silent Strike” in honour of fallen protesters on Friday—the last day of Myanmar New Year Water Festival—by not going outside after 12pm. #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/qpWtwQYUFc— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) April 16, 2021
South Korea ends venture
Opponents have been organising both at home and abroad with the aim of stepping up their campaign.
A previously unknown group called the Ayeyarwaddy Federal Army said on Facebook it aimed to fight the military to restore an elected government and protect the people and it called for volunteers.
It gave no details about how it aimed to take on the well-equipped and seasoned army, which has been battling ethnic minority insurgents for decades.
International pressure has also been slowly building on the military, particularly from Western governments, though the military has a long record of brushing off outside pressure.
The European Union has agreed to impose sanctions on another 10 individuals linked to the coup and to target two businesses run by the armed forces for the first time in protest at the military takeover, two diplomats said.
While the EU has an arms embargo on Myanmar and targeted 11 senior military officials last month, the decision to target the two companies is the most significant response for the bloc since the coup.
EU diplomats told Reuters in March that parts of the military's conglomerates, Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), would be targeted, barring EU investors and banks from doing business with them.
Human rights groups have also called for them to be sanctioned.
South Korean steelmaker end partnership
A South Korean steelmaker on Friday said it plans to end a joint venture with a military-controlled firm in Myanmar following criticism that its business has benefited military leaders who have violently suppressed pro-democracy protests there.
POSCO Coated & Color Steel said it has decided to discontinue its partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, which is about 40 percent owned by Myanmar’s Defense Ministry. However, the South Korean company said it would not pull out of Myanmar.
POSCO C&C owns 70 percent of its joint venture with MEHL, Myanmar POSCO C&C.
Min Ji-hyun, an official from POSCO C&C, said the company has informed MEHL it wants to buy the Myanmar firm’s 30 percent stake so that it can continue operating the venture with full ownership. MEHL has yet to respond to POSCO C&C’s offer, Min said.
Min said he couldn’t provide detailed estimates on how much the deal would cost POSCO C&C, saying that would depend on when it goes through. He said the company will look for “other ways” to continue doing business in Myanmar if MEHL refuses to sell its stake, but did not elaborate on what those might be.