YANGON • Opponents of Myanmar's coup splashed red paint and dye on roads and signs outside government offices yesterday to represent the blood of people killed protesting against the junta on the second day of the traditional New Year holiday.
The display aimed at shaming the military took place in various towns and cities, showed pictures posted by media outlets, as people answered a call by activists to join what they termed a "bloody paint strike".
Some people marched with signs calling for the release of the leader of the ousted government, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Please save our leader - future - hope," read a sign with a picture of Ms Suu Kyi held by a woman who was among several thousand people marching in the second-largest city of Mandalay, showed a picture published by the Mizzima news service.
There were no immediate reports of violence at any of the protests yesterday, but information has become scarce because of junta curbs on the Internet.
The five-day New Year holiday, known as Thingyan, began on Tuesday but pro-democracy activists cancelled the usual festivities to focus on their opposition to the generals who seized power. Activists have planned different shows of defiance every day over the holiday, which ends on Saturday.
Small blasts have been going off in different places over recent days, with the latest two explosions in the central city of Monywa yesterday wounding one person, the Monywa Gazette reported. There have been no claims of responsibility.
An activist group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, said that security forces have killed 710 protesters since the ousting of Ms Suu Kyi's government.
The United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday it feared that the military clampdown on the protests risked escalating into a civil conflict like that seen in Syria.
The United States and other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions focused on the military. South-east Asian neighbours have been encouraging talks between the Myanmar sides but without progress.
The US Ambassador to Myanmar, Mr Thomas Vajda, said in a New Year message he was aware that many people were making sacrifices and suffering for their beliefs and convictions in these "very difficult times".
"I'm deeply impressed with your courage and your commitment," said Mr Vajda. "Let me also reconfirm the commitment of my colleagues and I... to do all we can to support the people of Myanmar in your aspirations for genuine democracy, peace and freedom."
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Mr Josep Borrell, said this week that Russia and China, which have close ties with the military, were blocking a united response to the coup, including attempts to impose an arms embargo.
The UN Security Council has called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi and others, but stopped short of condemning the coup.
Meanwhile, government forces suffered heavy casualties in an assault on ethnic Kachin forces in the north this week, the Myanmar Now media group reported.