Frightened workers returned to their jobs Monday as thousands of Burmese troops patrolled Rangoon threatening reprisals against anyone defying an ultimatum to end a seven-week general strike, witnesses said.
Western diplomats estimated that as much as 80% of the capital’s labor force complied with the ultimatum, despite pleas from opposition groups not to yield to government pressure.
But at least one student group vowed to intensify the campaign against Burma’s military regime, issuing an appeal for weapons to help wage a guerrilla war against the government.
Millions of Burmese from all walks of life have taken part in strikes and massive demonstrations calling for an end to authoritarian rule in the Southeast Asian nation of 38 million people.
Military Coup Sept. 18
Widespread unrest in the last three months led to the resignations of two presidents, and a third--civilian President Maung Maung--was replaced by a military government Sept. 18.
The military regime set Monday as the deadline to end strikes that have crippled the economy and exasperated the authoritarian government since Aug. 8.
Students waving banners staged at least five small anti-government demonstrations Monday but quickly dispersed when heavily armed troops approached, witnesses said.
Armor, Troops in Streets
Armored cars and trucks carrying an estimated 7,000 troops rumbled through the streets of the capital. Loudspeakers warned that severe action would be taken against anyone continuing to strike.
“Today you have to come to work or you will be fired,” said a young woman working in the tourist industry. “Tomorrow maybe won’t be a problem because they won’t be checking.”
Aung Gyi, president of the opposition League for Democracy, issued a statement saying the seven-week-old general strike “should continue until the democratic movement of the students and people achieves victory.”
The military government, led by Gen. Saw Maung, has promised “free and fair” elections at an undisclosed date, but opposition leaders said the military was only following the orders of the old ruling clique, led by longtime strongman Ne Win, and cannot be trusted.