Activists protesting Myanmar’s coup call on public for passive acts of defiance over upcoming new year holiday in a bid to maintain momentum for a movement that has seen more than 700 people killed in clashes with junta.
Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been hit with a fresh criminal charge, as the junta’s tough crackdown on dissent rolls on.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate has not been seen in public since being detained in the early hours of February 1 as the military deposed her government and seized power.
The generals have used increasingly brutal methods to try to quell a growing protest movement against their rule, while Suu Kyi faces a raft of criminal charges that could see her barred for life from office.
"Amay Suu has been charged again under section 25 of the natural disaster management law," lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP after a court hearing in the capital Naypyidaw, where Suu Kyi appeared by video link.
"She has been charged in six cases altogether – five charges in Naypyidaw and one in Yangon."
The most serious charge Suu Kyi faces falls under Myanmar's official secrets laws.
Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Naypyidaw, appeared in good health but it is not clear if she has any idea of the turmoil that has unfolded in Myanmar over the past two months.
Near-daily protests seeking her release and the restoration of democracy have been met with rubber bullets, live rounds and even grenades by the security forces.
More than 700 civilians have been killed in the space of just 70 days since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, which says more than 3,000 have been arrested.
In one of the bloodiest days of the unrest so far, on Friday more than 80 protesters were killed by security forces in the southern city of Bago.
Witnesses described seeing dead bodies piled up and then loaded into army trucks and driven away, while the UN said many of the wounded had been denied medical treatment.
Despite the dangers, protesters continue to rally and Monday – the eve of Myanmar's Buddhist new year celebrations – saw demonstrations in the second biggest city Mandalay as well as Kalay, in the north.
Activists call for new year defiance
Opponents of Myanmar's coup called on Monday for people to show defiance of the military with costumes and prayers over the upcoming new year holiday, hoping to maintain the momentum of their campaign in which more than 700 people have been killed.
The traditional new year, known as Thingyan in Myanmar, is the most important holiday of the year and is usually celebrated with prayers, ritual cleaning of Buddha images in temples and high-spirited water throwing on the streets.
"The military council doesn't own Thingyan. The power of people is in the hands of people," Ei Thinzar Maung, a leader of the General Strike Collaboration Committee protest group, wrote on Facebook.
"The people united need to hold a people's Thingyan," Ei Thinzar Maung said.
She called for Buddhists to wear certain religious attire and to recite prayers together and for members of small Christian communities to wear white and read psalms. She said followers of other religions should follow the lead of their leaders.
The holiday runs from April 13 to April 17, which is New Year's Day.
Security forces have killed 706 protesters, including 46 children, since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a Feb. 1 coup, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.
That included 82 people killed in the town of Bago, about 70 km (45 miles) northeast of Yangon, on Friday, which the AAPP called a "killing field".