On Friday 9 April, 2021 the ancient city of Bago in central Myanmar was under siege and bore witness to a horrifying and heartless mass murder of 82 peaceful protesters and civilians by military forces, using assault rifles, hand grenades and rocket propelled grenades to inflict maximum harm on unarmed civilians. The bodies of the dead and injured were dragged away by military forces and piled up at Zeyar Muni pagoda and a nearby school in Ponnazu ward, with many protesters missing, arrested or yet to be verified. Military personnel refused to let medical workers near dead bodies and the injured and cut electricity to the town between 7:00pm to 10:00pm to raid homes and destroy property. According to the Bago University Students’ Union the military is extorting 120,000 kyat (US$85) for the return of the bodies to family and loved ones, using sadistic and cruel tactics for financial gain. These tactics, including looting, extortion, robbery and pillaging by the Myanmar military, have been a common practice employed over decades against ethnic communities without any accountability. Bago protest organizer Ye Htut told Myanmar Now that the military are “shooting at every shadow”, showering crowds of peaceful protester with bullets. Much of the details of Friday’s massacre are still coming to light given the severe internet and communication restrictions which have inhibited news from getting out of Bago. Since 1 February, over 3,000 people are in unlawful detention, at least 715 have been killed and 17 people were sentenced to death but are currently evading arrest.
Amidst all of the turmoil and brutality, the people of Myanmar continue to show their determination and defiance against the military junta every day and night. They are creative and ingenious with their non-violent methods of protest and in raising their voices and in trying to defend their lives. Inspired by the fallen heroes and fuelled by the potential Myanmar has, they continue to push for their fundamental right to freedom and genuine federal democracy. However, with harsh and severe restrictions on their basic freedoms, including movement and flow of information due to internet blackouts and social media being blocked, protesters have turned to tactics employed during the 1988 revolution. Many are turning to flyers and journals to keep the flow of information to those without internet, including telling people not to join the Thingyan celebrations in a move to delegitimize the junta’s celebrations. Much of these hand delivered publications are led by student activists and unions. Another roadblock is the continuing and widespread attacks on free press, including raiding media offices, beating journalists, shooting at and arresting journalists covering protests and revoking media licences. Also, the vital work of civil society is almost impossible to undertake in this climate, and restrictions are increasing, in addition to offices being raided and property being seized. Currently, security forces are confiscating satellite dishes and hacking WiFi cables to houses and raiding shops that sell telecommunications equipment in order to stop the flow of information from local media outlets such as Mizzima and DVB, as well as international news.
In defiance, a group of pro-democracy activists have launched a Federal Radio in Yangon to keep the people of Myanmar informed on the news and educated about strides towards a federal union. Vibrant protest techniques are also being employed, including the “Easter egg strike”, where protesters paint Easter eggs with political messages. Also, protesters have used torches, candles, cell phones or other forms of light at night to “light strike” or have placed flowers inside shoes to pay tribute to the fallen heroes and in defiance against the junta. These actions serve many purposes. They illustrate that no single person or entity has a monopoly on how protests against the junta are to be carried out, and disarms the junta’s brutality through art, vibrancy, and creativity in solidarity with unified actions.
A groundswell of support for the Civil Disobedience Movement, Gen Z, and General Strikes has come from Myanmar’s diverse ethnic diaspora groups and Myanmar citizens abroad, joining in solidarity with their compatriots to voice their opposition to the military junta. Examples include protesters outside the Myanmar embassy in Tokyo on Sunday and Taiwan’s Myanmar community who have been periodically demonstrating in Taipei’s Liberty Square. Su Wai Lin, a Myanmar demonstrator in Taipei said to Voice of Asia “We want to show the people of Myanmar, even though we are outside of Myanmar, we are with them.” Another partner in the fight against the junta is the Milk Tea Alliance, uniting pro-democracy activists within an Asian network for the common aim of democracy, freedom and human rights. This spawned the three finger salute co-oped from The Hunger Games movie franchise, which exemplifies this never-say-die mentality.
Progressive Voice wishes to showcase and pay tribute to some of the brave youth, men and women that make up these movements in our People’s Voices Channel and their modes of defiance. We open this channel to ensure historic voices and actions are not left unheard or unknown and will remain as a historical record for generations to be proud of, as successive military regimes in Myanmar have always deliberately tried to destroy images and evidence of the people’s movements of days past. One such inspirational and powerful voice is that of Dr. Tayzar San, whose fearless and animated protests, community work and advocacy inspires the people to be part of the movement to keep fighting on. He was one of the early protesters, picketing outside the Medical University in Mandalay on 4 February 2021 and continues at the forefront of every march in Myanmar’s second largest city, megaphone in hand and yelling at the top of his lungs in defiance against an illegitimate and murderous military. What unifies all corners of this young movement is the dogged and unrelenting determination, and an unfaltering will to never bow down to the brutal junta and to only see hope for the future. Like many protesters have said on placards, “You have messed with the wrong generation”.
While these brave people take to the streets with the real threat of being killed, the international community is sitting on its hand. All international actors must heed the calls of all Myanmar’s people, who from all corners of the country are calling for a genuine federal democracy with fully realized self-determination for all ethnic nationalities. This support must be undertaken with concrete and effective actions to assist these brave people and their aims. International efforts must not legitimize or recognize the illegal junta but repudiate this brutal regime through an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on military leadership and military-linked businesses in order to cut all funds flowing to the military. The UN Security Council must send the UN Secretary General to Myanmar immediately to stop the violence and prevent further atrocities, impose a global arms embargo and refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.
 One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.
Resources from the past week
Statements and Press Releases
By 8 Student and youth groups
By 21 International Organizations
By 407 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations
By Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
By Committee to Protect Journalists
By European Union
By Fortify Rights
By Fortify Rights
By Free Burma Rangers
By Free Burma Rangers
By Free Burma Rangers
By Human Rights Watch
By Justice For Myanmar
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင် သမိုင်းကြောင်းအဆက်ဆက်၌ ဆုံးရှုံးခဲ့သည့် အမျိုးသမီးအခွင့်အရေးများအား ကာကွယ်၊ စောင့်ရှောက်၊ မြှင့်တင်နိုင်ရေးအတွက် အမျိုးသမီးခေါင်းဆောင်များ၍ နိုင်ငံရေးနှင့် ဥပဒေရေးအရ ဦးဆောင်ပါဝင်ခွင့်ကို ကြားကာလဖွဲ့စည်းပုံ အခြေခံဥပဒေဖြင့် အဆိုပြုတင်သွင်းခြင်း
By Legal Aid Network
တိုင်းရင်းသားတပ်ပေါင်းစု အသစ်ဖွဲ့စည်းရန် ကြိုးပမ်းမည့်အစား ဥပဒေစိုးမိုးရေးတည်ဆောက်နိုင်ရန်အတွက် ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေ အခြခံတွင် ဖက်ဒရယ်ပြည်ထောင်စု တပ်မတော် ပေါ်ထွန်းလာရေးကိုသာ အားစိုက်ဆောင်ရွက်ရန် တိုက်တွန်းခြင်း
By Legal Aid Network
By Multi-Ethnic Group in the United States of America
By Nordic Countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden)
By Reporters Without Borders
By Salween Peace Park
By Shan Human Rights Foundation
By Southeast Asian People-to-People Region Hall
By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar
By War Resisters’ International
By Women’s League of Burma
By Zomi Federal Union
Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”