Myanmar’s valiant fight for freedom and federal democracy continues. Last Friday morning, in spite of the ferocious violence inflicted by security forces on peaceful protesters and civilians, thousands gathered in Yangon’s Tamwe Market in a flash mob style protest, a creative and sporadic form of protest to elude security forces. Meanwhile on the other side of Yangon, defiant students at Yangon University are boycotting classes, with reportedly only 10 percent of students attending after the junta ordered universities to reopen in-person classes. The junta has unlawfully altered education requirements for university and higher education providers, in some instances cramming 100 days of lessons into 39 days, angering students and teachers who are refusing to live under the junta’s rule. One student told Radio Free Asia that “Students have been arrested, imprisoned, and unjustly shot during the protests,” he said. “Out of respect for those killed and tortured, we won’t go to school until the uprising is over.” Many students, teachers and young people form a large part of the 3,936 currently in detention, the 788 killed as a result of the coup, and the astounding 1,619 arrest warrants. This is one of the junta’s feeble attempts to muster any semblance of control, a desperate ploy to project normalcy and business-as-usual.
While the junta is unsuccessfully projecting normalcy, the economic ramifications of the attempted coup are stark and cannot be glossed over. It is expected that Myanmar’s economy will have shrunk by 10% by year’s end, this is after a pre-coup forecast growth of 5.9% by the World Bank in October 2020. For those members inside the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), General Strike, Generation Z, Milk Tea Alliance, students and those protesting for a genuine federal democracy, the financial burden of the junta’s attempted coup is mounting as time marches on.
Myanmar’s banking sector is being tanked by the junta, which has illegally raided government bank accounts and has asserted control over Myanmar’s central bank. Cash flow into banks has stalled, resulting in customers waiting hours to withdraw cash. Banks have set restrictions on withdrawals, such as daily limits of 200,000 kyats, rationing cash at ATMs and limiting the number of customers entering the bank. Employees from Myanmar’s largest bank KBZ, who were striking as part of the CDM, are now faced with a harsh ultimatum – either return to work or face being fired. This experience is common, many are faced with enormous pressure, intimidation and threats from the junta to return to work, or risk being targets of killings, beatings, arrests, and abductions of family members. Striking health workers are being forcibly disappeared and many are being forced to flee out of the cities in droves to ethnic areas, resulting in a public health emergency. In a statement, the Special Advisory Council For Myanmar said the specific targeting of medical professionals is “systematically destroying” Myanmar’s healthcare system, which was already massively underfunded due to the disproportionate amount of the national budget allocated to the military, even before the attempted coup. COVID-19 testing, treatment and immunizations have been stymied by the junta’s persecution of these health workers – with the public uninformed about infection rates and lacking PPE.
Due to the junta’s internet shutdowns, businesses and customers are unable to use electronic payment methods and conduct internet banking. Stock trading on the Yangon Stock Exchange is at an all-time low and international investment has slowed, resulting in a crippled economy. For instance, one third (200,000) of garment industry jobs have been axed, with the world’s second largest clothing retailer H&M suspending orders due to the “practical difficulties and unpredictable situation” resulting from the coup attempt. This economic instability is a direct consequence of the junta’s actions, which is impacting the most vulnerable workers and very people the junta is killing in the streets. Practical, material support must be given to these workers, whose hard graft has produced profits for foreign companies.
Myanmar is at the tipping point of a food crisis. Compounding this is the junta’s escalating airstrikes and shelling of villages in Kachin, Karen and Shan States, displacing over 50,000 people, killing 14 and wounding 28 people in Karen State alone. In Kachin State, shelling and mortar fire has displaced 5,000 people, some of whom have sought refuge at local church organizations, with one aid worker saying “COVID hit us, and now the coup. From a humanitarian perspective, the situation has changed from complex to chaotic.” Many remain food insecure, without adequate healthcare and limited clean water sources, further exacerbating already dire humanitarian situations prior to the coup. Karen civil society organizations are calling out for urgent cross-border medical assistance, food, shelter, clean water and sanitation equipment for those forced to leave their homes due to the Myanmar military’s indiscriminate airstrikes. The Ethnic Health Committee, an alliance of ethnic health organizations, highlights that international aid is often not able to reach those most in need, due to ongoing conflict and restrictions by the junta. Additionally, the stakes are high when conducting aid work, with aid workers inside Myanmar fearful of harm that would befall them and their families if the junta discovered their activities.
The extraordinary resistance and resolve shown by Myanmar’s peoples, in the face of extreme violence by the tyrannical military junta, is awe-inspiring. Seeking a genuine federal democracy and basic human rights should not come at such a heavy cost in terms of loss of life, livelihoods, and economic burden. The international community must provide practical support to the CDM and General Strike to enable the people of Myanmar to continue their struggle to fulfil their democratic aspirations. Over three months since the attempted coup was launched, the junta’s violence triggered by the coup attempt and unfolding humanitarian crisis is a basic lesson in cause and effect. This illegal murderous junta must be stopped through cutting their sources of income and through coordinated international pressure, including targeted economic sanctions on military leadership and military affiliated business, a global arms embargo and a referral of Myanmar to the ICC to render justice and accountability to victims of the junta’s crimes. Simultaneously, increased international aid, particularly cross-border support, must be ramped up to mitigate the humanitarian crisis and the effects of COVID-19. This aid must be redirected away from the junta and to local humanitarian groups on the border to maximize the aid to the vulnerable populations and those most in need, including those fleeing the junta’s persecution. No more time can be spared. Swift and concrete actions must be taken to prevent this crisis from worsening and to support the people of Myanmar in their quest for federal democracy.
 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 205 Global Civil Society Organizations
By ALTSEAN Burma, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, FORUM-ASIA, Progressive Voice
By Burma Campaign UK
By Burma Human Rights Network
By CSO Working Group on MNHRC Reform, Asian NGO Network for National Human Rights Institution, 13 Regional Civil Society Organizations
By Diplomatic Missions (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, EU, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and U.S.)
By Ethnic Health Committee
By Free Burma Rangers
By Human Rights Watch
By Justice For Myanmar
By Justice For Myanmar
By Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice
ရိုဟင်ဂျာလူထုများအား နိုင်ငံသားဖြစ်ခွင့်မပေးပါက NUG အားအသိအမှတ်ပြုရန် ခဲယဥ်းကြောင်း အမေရိကန်ပြည်ထောင်စု အောက်လွှတ်တော်အမတ်များက ဖိအားပေးခြင်းနှင့်ဆက်စပ်လျက် ၎င်းတို့အား အဘယ်ကြောင့် နိုင်ငံသားပေးသင့်ကြောင်း သုံးသပ်တင်ပြချက်။
By Legal Aid Network
By Myanmar Students’ Union in the UK & Éire
By National Unity Government of Myanmar
By Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF/TNLA)
By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar
By Shan Human Rights Foundation
By Ta’ang Students and Youth Union, Ta’ang Women’s Organization, Ta’ang Legal Aid
By The Network of the People in the Salween River
By United Nations in Myanmar
By Women’s League of Burma and 47 Organizations and 102 Individuals
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
By Foreign and Development Ministers of the Group of Seven (G7)
By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
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.”