Faced with Overwhelming Power, The People Resist

May 7th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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The military coup is failing, yet the junta are determined to take the rest of the country down with it, paying no heed to the economic, humanitarian and food crises that it is causing. Despite all this, the people of Myanmar are seizing this opportunity to build a new country. Being faced with cruelty and violence, no one is going to protect them from the military apart from themselves.

Despite ongoing military offensives, airstrikes in Karen and Kachin States, killing and enforced disappearance of members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and others participating in demonstrations, the people of Myanmar[1] continue to resist the overwhelming firepower of the military through protest, self-defence units, armed struggle from ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and creative forms of dissidence. However, with the junta creating a food crisis, potentially plunging millions into poverty through economic collapse, and a humanitarian crisis that was already teetering towards catastrophe before the coup, the people of Myanmar need all the support they can get to maintain their historic movement for a federal democracy.

The junta has launched over a dozen airstrikes this past week in Mutraw District, Karen State, sending 3,000 villagers over the border to Thailand. This is an ongoing situation and since the end of March, the indiscriminate use of airstrikes and artillery has displaced 45,000 people, killing at least 20. It is clear that the junta is targeting Brigade 5 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), and the killing, injuring and displacement of civilians is barely an afterthought. In Kachin and Shan States, armed conflict is also displacing thousands. The ethnic communities have faced this before, and the existence of refugee camps over the border in Thailand, where Karen, Karenni, Mon and other mostly ethnic nationalities have been living for decades, is testament to the historic patterns of brutal military warfare against ethnic nationalities. However, as the junta’s belligerence spills over to its ASEAN neighbour, this new onslaught is creating an urgent humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, in central cities and towns in Myanmar, the junta continues to chase down leaders and participants in the CDM, particularly teachers, doctors and other health workers. They have also continued to murder, such as Zaw Shein, a street vendor in Mandalay, who was killed after being shot in the back as the junta forces fired indiscriminately at civilians. The junta are also actively cracking down on the media, arresting two journalists from the Voice of Myanmar in Mandalay, taking the total number of media workers currently detained to at least 56. Meanwhile, the internet remains heavily restricted, censored and blacked out at night.

It is not only the violence that is destroying the country – Myanmar is on the brink of economic collapse. A UNDP report has warned that, combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the attempted military coup could push 12 million more people into poverty, nearly half of the total population of the country. The World Food Program has reported that 3.4 million more people will be food insecure in the next three to six months. The banking system is barely functioning, factories are shuttered, food and other essentials are increasing in cost, and businesses are struggling to survive. The petty looting, theft, and extortion practiced by the junta’s soldiers exacerbates this situation.

Despite this, the people of Myanmar are not passive. Faced with food shortages, the brutal violence of the junta, and a collapsing state, they are proactively resisting in varying forms. For example, doctors, bank workers and civil servants, are willing to lose their salaries, jobs, housing, or licenses to continue participation in the CDM. After being relatively quiet for a few weeks due to ongoing attacks and daily killings of demonstrators, quick, flashmob style protests in several towns and cities across Myanmar sprung up this week.

In particular towns in northeast Myanmar, in Sagaing and Chin, local self defence, or village defence units are being formed, pushing back against the military by protecting their communities through barricades, protest camps, ambushes, and the use of hunting rifles. In Mindat, Chin State, the Chinland Defense Force, claimed it killed 30 Myanmar military soldiers during a four day battle sparked by junta forces shooting a civilian. They eventually succeeded in forcing the junta to release local villagers they had detained, and leave the area. Meanwhile, some EAOs are taking Myanmar military bases or burning them down. For example, the KNLA burned down Thaw Le Hta base near the Thai border on 27 April. The Kachin Independence Army, meanwhile, successfully defended its Alaw Bum base, near Laiza that it had retaken last month, from a Myanmar military attack that included airstrikes.

The military coup is failing, yet the junta are determined to take the rest of the country down with it, paying no heed to the economic, humanitarian and food crises that it is causing. Despite all this, the people of Myanmar are seizing this opportunity to build a new country. Being faced with cruelty and violence, no one is going to protect them from the military apart from themselves. Hence we are seeing self defence units taking security into their own hands, EAOs asserting their power by retaking military bases or forcing the junta out of their territory. It is clear that the people of Myanmar are willing to risk their lives for the success of the Nway Oo (Spring) Revolution. Yet the coming humanitarian crisis, caused by the military’s unlawful attempted coup, is going to hurt. International humanitarian agencies must do all they can to provide aid to the displaced, hungry, and persecuted, including working with existing community-based organizations that have networks and expertise on aid delivery, particularly in conflict-affected areas. Cross-border support to these ethnic structures of service provision and support systems is essential. Other international actors and agencies must also recognise and work with the legitimate interim government – the National Unity Government, in providing necessary and urgent political and humanitarian support for the movement. The people are determined to topple this military junta once and for all. The revolution will be won by the people of Myanmar, but solidarity and material support will go a long way to aiding this triumph of the people over a brutal military junta.


[1] 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

Myanmar civil society organizations condemn UNODC’s decision to invite brutal military representative, Lt-Gen Than Hlaing, to its 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

By 410 Myanmar civil society organizations and four individuals

Hundreds of global MPs call for immediate release of Myanmar colleagues, democracy to be restored

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

ကြားကာလအမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ (INUG) သို့ ပေးပို့သော အိတ်ဖွင့်ပေးစာ

By BEGSC, ရ.တ.က.သ, မ.တ.က.သ, ဗကသများအဖွဲ့ချုပ်

Chevron: Stop Putting Profits Over the Lives of Burmese Citizens

By Burma Human Rights Network

ချင်းလဲန်းကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ (ပလက်ဝ) ဖွဲ့စည်းကြောင်းထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

By Chinland Defenes Force Paletwa

Cease Systematic Use of Torture in Military Interrogation Centers

By Chin Human Rights Organization

Myanmar: ASEAN meeting outcomes ignores assault on rights and civil society


EarthRights International Praises Bipartisan Senate Efforts to Place Sanctions on 
Myanmar Oil and Gas Operations

By EarthRights International

Burma Army Drops Bombs on Villagers and FBR Teams Provide Food, Shelter and Medical Care to Families in Hiding

By Free Burma Rangers

Killing, Airstrikes and Displacement Continue, With 25,000 People Displaced as the Burma Army Steps Up its Attacks in Northern Karen State

By Free Burma Rangers

Applying R2P to Myanmar

By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Japan: Suspend Aid Benefitting Myanmar Junta

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: End Threats Against Rights Group

By Human Rights Watch

“The military cartel must be dismantled! The people must win!”: Justice For Myanmar at one year

By Justice for Myanmar

ကချင်လွတ်လပ်ရေးတပ်မေတာ် အမှတ် (၁၅) တပ်ရင်း – သတိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Kachin Independence Army

ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတ၏တာဝန် နှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရသို့ အကြံပြုခြင်း

By Legal Aid Network

Statement (8/2021)

By Myanmar Students’ Union in the UK & Éire

Statement by Prime Minister of NUG on the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting held in Jakarta, Indonesia on 24 April 2021

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

Ministry Investigates Sexual Violence in Detention

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

PPST အစည်းအဝေး (၁၅/၂၀၂၁) ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Peace Process Steering Team

၁၁ ကြိမ်မြောက် ခမီအမျိုးသားနိအခမ်းအနားသို့ ရက္ခိုင်အမျိုးသားအဖွဲ့ချုပ်/ရက္ခိုင့်တပ်တော် (ULA/AA) မှ ပီးပို့အပ်သော သဝဏ်လွှာ

By United League of Arakan/ Arakan Army



Burma Coup Watch for Month of April 2021: Government Locked Out of the House While Junta Launches New Civil War Inside

By Altsean-Burma, Burma Human Rights Network, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice, US Campaign for Burma and Women Peace Network

How were the students who fight against fascists oppressed in Prisons?

By All Burma Federation of Student Unions

Asia Pacific and Myanmar Humanitarian Snapshot April 2021

By UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Myanmar Humanitarian Update No. 6 | 30 April 2021

By UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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.”