Thingyan, or the five-day New Year holidays, are usually marked by prayers, ceremonial washing of Buddha images in temples, and raucous water-throwing in the streets.
Activists encouraged citizens to stage symbolic demonstrations beginning on Tuesday, including painting a three-finger salute used by protesters on traditional Thingyan pots filled with flowers, which are usually demonstrated at this time.
“Thingyan is not owned by the military council. “The power of the people is in the hands of the people,” Ei Thinzar Maung, a leader of the protest group General Strike Collaboration Committee, wrote on Facebook.
Other expected holiday demonstrations against the junta, according to Ei Thinzar Maung, include the splattering of red paint on sidewalks and the sounding of car horns.
Activists have called for a day of mourning on Saturday to remember the victims of the killings, as well as a day of religious observance, with Buddhists encouraged to wear religious clothing and chant prayers together, and Christian religions encouraged to wear white and read psalms. Other religions were urged to follow the call of their leaders in the predominantly Buddhist region.
That will be the second straight delayed new year’s holiday, after a coronavirus pandemic that all but cancelled last year’s festivities.
The Feb. 1 coup has thrown Myanmar into turmoil after ten years of cautious moves towards independence, with the military stepping back from politics and allowing Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to form a coalition after sweeping a 2015 election.
The military claims it had no choice but to depose her after a November referendum won by her National League for Democracy was rigged. The election commision rejected the charge.
The coup sparked regular demonstrations by those opposed to military rule, but at a high cost, with security forces killing 710 demonstrators, according to an opposition organisation called the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
On Friday, 82 people were killed in Bago, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) north-east of Yangon.
Because of the junta’s restrictions on broadband access and mobile data networks, it was difficult to check details of the attack.
The junta’s spokesperson could not be contacted for comment.
Suu Kyi, 75, who has led Myanmar’s struggle against military rule for decades and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been detained since the coup and charged with various offences. These include violating a colonial-era official secrets act that could see her jailed for 14 years.
“We do not celebrate Myanmar Thingyan this year since over 700 of our innocent brave souls are killed by inhumane junta forces unlawfully. We believe we will win this revolution,” said one Twitter user identified as Shwe Ei.