NAYPYITAW (Reuters) -- A general strike against military rule shut businesses in Myanmar on Monday and huge crowds gathered peacefully despite fears of violence after authorities warned that confrontation could be deadly.
Three weeks after seizing power, the junta has failed to stop the daily protests and a civil disobedience movement calling for the reversal of the Feb. 1 coup and release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Hundreds of thousands gathered in cities and towns across the country, from the northern hills on the border with China to the central plains, the Irrawaddy river delta and the southern tip of the panhandle, social media images showed.
In the capital, Naypyitaw, where the military is headquartered, a police water cannon truck and a fleet of other vehicles closed in to break up a procession of chanting protesters who scattered when police on foot rushed in, wrestling several to the ground.
The response of security forces this month has been less deadly than in earlier bouts of turmoil in almost half a century of direct military rule but three protesters have been killed - two shot dead in Mandalay on Saturday, and a woman who died on Friday after being shot more than a week earlier in Naypyitaw.
The army has said one policeman died of injuries sustained during the protests.
Many civil servants have been staying away from work as part of the civil disobedience campaign and government services have been crippled. The military has accused protesters of intimidation and provoking violence.
Late on Sunday, state-owned media MRTV warned that confrontation could cost lives.
"Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer loss of life,” the broadcaster said.
Facebook said on Monday it had removed MRTV’s pages for violations of its standards, including its violence and incitement policy. On Sunday, it deleted the military’s main page for the same reason.
Later, riot police lined up, apparently preparing to disperse protesters from outside a UN office, but the crowd broke up after singing a festive song that features the line: "Goodbye, we’re going”.
Crowds elsewhere in Yangon melted away by late afternoon.