Thousands protest in Myanmar after strike

·2-min read

Thousands of pro-democracy activists have taken to the streets in Myanmar, a day after a nationwide silent strike saw businesses shut and people stay home in protest against the military coup.

Street protests were held in the commercial capital Yangon, the central city of Monywa and several other towns on Thursday, according to witnesses and social media posts.

"Are we united? Yes we are," protesters shouted in Monywa.

"The revolution must prevail."

Nant Khi Phyu Aye, one of the those on the street, said many of the protesters were youngsters.

"They want to protest every day without skipping one day," she said.

Police broke up a demonstration in the city of Mawlamyine and arrested 20 people, Hinthar Media Corp said.

At least two people were injured but there were no other reports immediately of casualties elsewhere.

At least 286 people have been killed as security forces resorted to lethal force as they tried to quell weeks of unrest since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

In a sign of growing international pressure, the United States is planning to impose sanctions on two conglomerates controlled by Myanmar's military, sources familiar with the matter say.

Wednesday's silent strike left normally bustling areas of commercial hubs like Yangon and Monywa deserted.

While the scale of the street protests had been dropping in recent days, activists called for big demonstrations on Thursday.

"The strongest storm comes after the silence," protest leader Ei Thinzar Maung said in a social media post.

Candle-lit vigils took place across the country again overnight.

In Thanlyin on the outskirts of Yangon, protesters held placards reading: "We don't accept military coup", while medical staff wearing white coats held a dawn march in the second city of Mandalay.

Five more people were wounded overnight there, Myanmar Now media outlet reported.

A 16-year-old man later died after being shot in the back, it said.

The funeral of a seven-year-old girl killed on Tuesday, the youngest known victim of the crackdown, took place on Wednesday in Mandalay.

A spokesman for the military, which said on Tuesday 164 protesters had been killed, did not answer calls.

The junta on Wednesday freed hundreds of people arrested in its crackdown on protests against the overthrow of the elected government of Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

There was no word from authorities on how many were let out but AAPP said 628 were released on Wednesday out of more than 2900 arrested since the coup.

About 1000 people have been freed in all.

The junta has faced international condemnation for staging the coup that halted Myanmar's slow transition to democracy and its deadly suppression of dissent.

It has tried to justify the takeover by saying a November 8 election won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was fraudulent - an accusation the electoral commission has rejected.