An alliance of nine trade unions in Myanmar launched a general strike Monday in an attempt to back the anti-coup movement and pressure members of the military junta.
"To continue economic and business activities as usual...will only benefit the military as they repress the energy of the Myanmar people," they said in a joint statement. "The time to take action in defense of our democracy is now."
Strikes by civil servants, including those operating trains in the country, have taken place for weeks.
Shops, factories and banks are closed in Yangon, while crowds gathered in Myanmar's largest city despite the large presence of troops checking cars. Protesters also gathered in the second-biggest city, Mandalay, and the western town of Monywa.
The Reuters news agency also said protesters waved flags fashioned from women's sarongs or hung them on lines strung across the street to mark International Women's Day while denouncing the junta.
The calls to shut down the economy came Sunday after another bloody day between the protesters and the police and military, who are occupying hospitals in the main city of Yangon.
Mandalay saw the biggest turnout with activists staging a sit-in protest after two minutes of silence in honor of people killed by police and military units, video placed on social media showed. At least 70 people were arrested.
Police used stun grenades and tear gas against demonstrators in the historic temple town of Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its ancient Buddhist temples.
An official from ousted de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has died in police custody, a party official confirmed to VOA's Burmese service, as security forces continue to crack down on anti-coup protests in Myanmar.
NLD member Khin Maung Latt was arrested during overnight raids in Yangon Saturday and died while in detention, party lawmaker Sithu Maung said. A cause of death was not released.
Tun Kyi, spokesperson of the Association Assistance for Political Prisoners, Burma told VOA Burmese that he accompanied the bereaved family to claim Khin Maung Latt's body and witnessed blood on his head, his fingers blackened, and wounds on his back.
Overnight raids conducted by police have targeted leaders of the NLD. Police have not commented on the matter.
Soldiers also looked for but didn't find a lawyer who worked for former de facto leader Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, Sithu Maung said in a Facebook post.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said Saturday that more than 1,700 people had been detained under the junta.
"Detainees were punched and kicked with military boots, beaten with police batons, and then dragged into police vehicles," AAPP said in a statement. "Security forces entered residential areas and tried to arrest further protesters, and shot at the homes, destroying many."
State television MRTV reported Saturday that Myanmar authorities had exhumed the body of Kyal Sin, also known as Angel, who died while wearing a T-shirt that read, "Everything will be OK."
Kyal Sin, who has become an icon of the protests, was shot in the head and died Wednesday.
Police, doctors and a judge determined that she was killed by "those who do not want stability" and not police, MRTV said. Officials had said her wound was to the back of her head, and therefore couldn't have been caused by police. Photos published by Reuters, however, show Kyal Sin had the back of her head turned to a line of security forces moments before she was shot.
Australian officials announced they were suspending a defense cooperation program with Myanmar's military and redirecting aid money to non-profit organizations in the country.
Myanmar has been consumed by chaos and violence since Feb. 1, when the military overthrew the civilian government and detained Suu Kyi and other high-ranking NLD officials. Military officials say widespread fraud occurred in last November's election, which the NLD won in a landslide. Election officials have denied any significant irregularities.