Witnesses said troops fired shots in the air at several places around the Southeast Asian nation and were checking cars in central Yangon to prevent protesters from gathering.
Nevertheless, crowds demonstrating against last month’s coup gathered there as well as the second-biggest city, Mandalay, and in Monywa, a town to the west, according to videos posted on Facebook. Protesters in Dawei, a coastal town in the south, were protected by the Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group engaged a long-running war with the military.
Protesters waved flags fashioned from htamain (women’s sarongs) in some places or hung them up on lines across the street to mark International Women’s Day while denouncing the junta. Walking beneath women’s sarongs is traditionally considered bad luck for men and tends to slow down police and soldiers.
State media said security forces were keeping a presence at hospitals and universities as part of efforts to enforce the law.
At least nine unions covering sectors including construction, agriculture and manufacturing have called on “all Myanmar people” to stop work to reverse the Feb. 1 coup and restore Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
Allowing business and economic activity to continue would help the military “as they repress the energy of the Myanmar people”, the unions said in a statement.
“The time to take action in defence of our democracy is now.”
Only a few small tea-shops were open in Yangon, witnesses said. Major shopping centres were closed and there was no work going on at factories.
Protest leader Maung Saungkha on Facebook urged women to come out strongly against the coup on Monday, while Nay Chi, one of the organisers of the sarong movement, described the women as “revolutionaries”.
“Our people are unarmed but wise. They try to rule with fear, but we will fight that fear,” she told Reuters.
Police and military have killed more than 50 people to quell daily demonstrations and strikes since the coup, according to the United Nations.
Figures by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group showed nearly 1,800 people have been detained under the junta as of Sunday.
More about: Myanmar