New Solidarities

June 10th, 2021  •  Author: Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
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Myanmar’s Spring Revolution is an inflection point in the country’s history. The old forces of domination and repression are still present, but it is providing new fissures, solidarities and potential for progressive change.

The junta’s military continues to wage war against the people of Myanmar, as seen in particular in Karenni and southern Shan State in recent weeks, maintaining the decades-long violent persecution that ethnic people in particular have always faced. Yet the turmoil and chaos that the attempted coup has plunged the country into, has created new opportunities for progressive change, reflected in the National Unity Government’s statement that pledges to repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law and work together with the Rohingya for a new Myanmar.

Following on from the previous week, Karenni State has seen some of the worst violence of the junta’s ongoing terror campaign so far. The junta used airstrikes and heavy artillery in the village of Kone Thar, Demoso Township in Karenni State on 31 May, to bombard locally formed people’s defence forces. In Karenni State and neighboring Shan State, over 100,000 people have been displaced, and at least 23 civilians killed. Meanwhile, in Chin State and Sagaing Region, ongoing attacks against local people’s defence forces continue, as the military struggles to maintain any semblance of control. In Mindat, which was under siege just a few weeks ago, over 10,000 people are still displaced, sheltering in nearby forests and in desperate need of humanitarian aid as junta soldiers loot the town in revenge for Mindat’s steely defiance in rejecting the junta. Additionally, reports of a massacre have emerged in Kyonpyaw Village in the Irrawaddy Delta, with an unknown number of fatalities so far, during a violent search for weapons by the junta’s soldiers.

The military’s unlawful power grab and indiscriminate brutal violence, such as the Kyonpyaw massacre, means that, despite the best efforts of ASEAN to bestow legitimacy on the military junta, the majority of Myanmar people see the National Unity Government (NUG) as the true, legitimate government of the country. Thus, its policy statement released on 3 June regarding the Rohingya represents an important move forward. The statement recognizes that horrific violence took place against the Rohingya, pledges to abolish two tools of exclusion – the 1982 Citizenship Law and the National Verification Cards (NVCs) – and pledges to seek justice and accountability, potentially at the International Criminal Court (ICC), and to enable a process of return for the hundreds of thousands who fled the genocidal violence committed by the Myanmar military in 2016 and especially in 2017. Many of these Rohingya are living in precarious conditions in Bangladesh, with some forced to move to the island of Bhasan Char without proper assessment of its suitability in terms of safety from adverse weather conditions. The Citizenship Law, NVCs, restrictions around freedom of movement, marriages, births and access to healthcare and education within Rakhine State, are all part of broader, long term structures of discrimination that need to be dismantled. The statement is not perfect, as it could recognize more explicitly that what happened to the Rohingya and what is still happening, is a genocide, and make a stronger commitment to the cases at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and ICC. Yet it is an important first step toward bringing the Rohingya home.

This is a far cry from the previous policy of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which actively defended the military’s violence at the ICJ in the Hague in December 2019. Even mentioning and referring to the name Rohingya by the NUG, thus recognizing their identity as ‘Rohingya,’ is a step forward, albeit from a low starting point. It must be recognized, however, that this decision was not made in a vacuum. It is a result of tireless work of human rights defenders and civil society, both from the Rohingya community and others from Myanmar, who have always pushed the NLD to take the right stand on the Rohingya issue. Facing abuse and threats from many sectors of society, whether ultranationalist monks backed by the military or even other civil society actors with extreme views, the steadfast determination to stick to principles of human rights and equality paved the way for this statement by the NUG. While this was the foundation, it is the conditions of revolution that have provided the opportunity to take a step forward. On social media and on the streets, there has been greater solidarity and recognition of the Rohingya, and this is a hugely encouraging sign going forward. Dangers remain of course, and the fact that a statement sent to the NUG by 80 civil society organizations urging them to abolish the 1982 Citizenship Law, had to remain anonymous, reflects the toxicity that still lingers when working towards protection of Rohingya rights and equality within Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Spring Revolution is an inflection point in the country’s history. The old forces of domination and repression are still present, but it is providing new fissures, solidarities and potential for progressive change. The brutal military offensives, including the use of heavy artillery against ethnic minorities populations such as in Karenni, Kachin, Karen, Shan, and Chin States are not new. The description of these attacks and the civilian toll could be applied to any year of the NLD-government, the Thein Sein Government, or the darkest days of Than Shwe’s brutal regime. Yet moments like the Spring Revolution force open cracks in the repressive machinery of the Bamar-dominated State. The NUG’s statement that recognizes the Rohingya and pledges to work for justice and accountability is one such opening. The solidarity on the streets and in virtual spaces is another. These are rare moments in any country’s history, and bring necessary momentum to the revolutionary forces of change. They must be seized upon, supported, and taken even further, not squared away as issues to be dealt with later. Thus, while the NUG may have its flaws and shortfalls, it is operating in a challenging political environment and facing military attacks. However, it is also a vehicle in which progressive forces can affect meaningful change. Recognizing the NUG, while pushing them to leave behind and dissociate from hierarchy, icon worship and elitist authoritarianism dressed as democracy that the NLD party operated under, and using it as a tool to build a new future based on inclusivity, equality and human rights, and the practice of democracy, at every level of society, is a real possibility in these tumultuous times.

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[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

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Japan Must Review All Economic Cooperation Projects in Myanmar

By 42 Non Governmental Organizations in Japan

Myanmar CSOs Urge Total and Chevron to do More to Halt Revenue Streams to the Brutal Junta

By 408 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက် – Total နှင့် Chevron တို့အား ရက်စက်ကြမ်းကြုတ်သောစစ်အုပ်စုထံ စီးဝင်နေသည့်ဝင်ငွေများ ရပ်တန့်ရေး ပိုမိုလုပ်ဆောင်ရန် မြန်မာ CSO များက တောင်းဆိုလိုက်သည်

By 408 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

CSOs call on the UN to postpone the adoption of UPR outcomes of Myanmar

By 414 Myanmar and International Civil Society Organizations

Ahead of expected visit, ASEAN must hold Myanmar military accountable

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Myanmar military court sentences 2 journalists to jail for incitement

By Committee to Protect Journalists

DVB reporter Aung Kyaw convicted for 2 years

By Democratic Voice of Burma

MSF Implores Military & Armed Groups to Ensure Unimpeded Access to Healthcare

By Doctors Without borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Frontier Myanmar statement on the detention of Danny Fenster

By Frontier Myanmar

ASEAN: Stop enabling Myanmar’s military junta, support global arms embargo

By Forum-Asia, Altsean Burma, Progressive Voice

Myanmar National Unity Government: Appoint an Ethnic-Rohingya Envoy to Implement New Policy

By Fortify Rights

Urgent Appeal to the United Nations, International Governments, and Humanitarian Organizations

By Karenni National Progressive Party

ICRC President visits Myanmar to discuss humanitarian issues

By International Committee of the Red Cross

လူသားချင်းစာနာထောက်ထားမှုဆိုင်ရာကိစ္စရပ်များဆွေးနွေးရန် အိုင်စီအာရ်စီ ဥက္ကဌ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံသို့ လာရောက်

By International Committee of the Red Cross

Myanmar: International community must oppose new attack on union by military junta

By International Trade Union Confederation

ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်ရှိ ရိုဟင်ဂျာပြည်သူများဆိုင်ရာ မူဝါဒသဘောထား

By National Unity Government

Policy Position on the Rohingya in Rakhine State

By National Unity Government

Press Release (3/2021)

By National Unity Government

သတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက် (၃/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government

Tracking the Three Cuts: SAC-M Launches Live Record of Cuts to Junta’s Cash

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Asean Delegation Must Meet With All Relevant Parties in Myanmar

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Myanmar risks state failure without significant increase in international pressure, The Elders warn

By The Elders

Press Leaders to Myanmar: Release Jailed American Journalists

By The National Press Club

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioners conclude four-day visit to Bangladesh

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

reports

Reports

Burma Coup Watch for Month of May 2021: Lacking Control and Concern, Junta Tries to Keep Itself Alive

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

Burma Military Wounds Villagers, Shells Homes and Fields as Attacks Continue in Northern Karen State, Burma

By Free Burma Rangers

The Importance of Ethnic Minorities to Myanmar’s Future

By The Stimson Center

On-The-Ground in Burma: A Digital Briefer Issue 4, May 31, 2021

By US Campaign for Burma


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.”

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