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Myanmar Coup

Myanmar hit by third day of protests as curfew imposed in Mandalay

Military hints at crackdown as tens of thousands rally; Denso halt factory

People crowd around a banner during a rally to protest the military coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb. 8.   © Reuters

YANGON -- Large-scale protests erupted across Myanmar on Monday, marking one week since the coup d'etat. In Yangon, the country's largest city, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in front of the city hall starting Monday morning.

"Legal action should be taken against acts that harm the stability of the state, public safety and rule of law," warned state television in the afternoon, hinting at a crackdown by the military.

On Monday evening, local media reported that a curfew will be imposed in cities such as Mandalay, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Assemblies of more than five people will also be banned.

It was the first weekday after the demonstrations began on Saturday, and many people walked out of their workplaces to join the anti-military demonstrations.

In Yangon, demonstrations took place in Hledan township, one of the main business hubs, as well as in front of the house of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been detained by the army.

People chanted, "Respect our voting results! Release Aung San Suu Kyi!" The main roads were filled with cars heading for the center of the city, and drivers honked their horns to express solidarity.

Meanwhile, in the capital of Naypyitaw, police used water cannon against some of the thousands of protesters who had gathered for a rally.

One man who had joined the demonstration in front of the city hall said: "I told my boss that I would be absent for work today to participate in the protests, but he did not reply." He said he worked at a private bank and was on the streets with a few of his colleagues.

In the city center, most bank branches were not open for business on Monday because many employees were absent, making it difficult to operate. One banker said, "The demonstrations are likely to continue, and we don't know when we will be able to reopen our branches." Meanwhile, online banking was available.

After the coup on Feb. 1, the military ordered banks to continue their operations, to avoid negative impact on the economy. Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing met with representatives of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday and the Myanmar Bankers Association on Thursday. He said, "We will not change our diplomatic, administrative and economic policies."

Junction City, a large shopping mall in Yangon, was open for business, but most of the retail stores inside were closed on Monday. Since the coup, Japanese companies had instructed employees to work from home to ensure their safety, and they continued to do so on Monday.

According to a textile factory manager of a Japanese company in an industrial park in Yangon, about 10% of employees were absent from work on Monday morning, and more left for the protests. On some production lines, up to half the workers were absent, affecting production.

The manager said, "Under the current situation, we have no choice. It's up to the employees to protest, and we can't stop them." In Myanmar, cheap labor has attracted foreign companies to invest. The textile industry is the main export industry, and if production is hit by the protests, the economy will be negatively affected.

Japan is one of the major foreign investors in the country and many companies have temporarily stopped operations.

Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor is suspending operations at its two plants in Myanmar, Nikkei Asia has learned. The company "wants to assure the safety of the employees," a representative said. As for its operations from Tuesday onward, the representative said the company will consider it day by day after taking the local situation into account. Suzuki resumed operations Thursday after two days of suspension in the wake of the coup.

On Monday, Denso, an auto parts maker, stopped operations at its factory in Yangon. The plant was shut down after the coup and had resumed operation on Thursday.

Yakult Honsha and Ajinomoto also halted their respective beverage and food seasoning factories. Both of these plants are in the suburbs of Yangon and had just restarted operations on Thursday. JFE Engineering suspended operations at its factory to produce steel for bridges from Sunday. Kirin Holdings stopped operations at a beer factory in the suburbs of Yangon, one of its two joint ventures with a military-affiliated company.

At the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, an industrial park where more than 100 companies have factories and the majority are Japanese, some are suspending operations to ensure the safety of their employees, according to Sumitomo Corp. The industrial park is operated by companies such as Sumitomo Corp., Mitsubishi Corp. and Marubeni Corp.

On the other hand, some Japanese companies are operating their businesses as usual. Aeon's 11 supermarkets in the country are open, and JFE Steel is continuing to operate its steel plate plant, which resumed work on Thursday.

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