Supporting the Agency of Myanmar’s Local Organizations

August 23rd, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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“If the Special Envoy continues to engage only with the junta, he will be taken for a ride while the people of Myanmar suffer the consequences.”

Yanghee Lee, Former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and Member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Myanmar’s Spring Revolution, in spite of violent reprisals, peaceful marches valiantly on the road towards a genuine and representative federal democracy. Recent sporadic protests and flash-mob style marches, especially in Kalay and Mandalay, show an unbreakable unity and solidarity that cannot be matched by the military junta which illegitimately attempted a coup d’état and is now further attacking democracy by attempting to form a so called ‘caretaker government’.

Concurrently, many continue to suffer at the hands of the military junta, which is trying to instill fear through a nationwide campaign of terror, with some going to extremes to avoid capture by jumping from buildings. On 11 August, 2021, two people died and three were severely injured with very little chance of survival after jumping from a four story building, fleeing from the military junta who had opened fire on them during a raid on a Yangon apartment. One fell to his death after shots were fired and the others, seeing no other option, jumped to their deaths. One witness told The Irrawaddy “They didn’t seem to have any other options. They would have been beaten and tortured by the regime forces if they had been arrested. So, they chose another way, as they didn’t want to be arrested.” Three others were arrested at the scene and one other managed to escape, allegedly in connection with pro-democracy activities. The following day in another shooting in Myingyan, Mandalay Region, junta guards opened fire at passers-by they suspected to be part of the People’s Defence Force, killing a one-year-old girl and injuring her  father, Nyein Chan and another passer-by. This child is one of the youngest of at least 76 children killed by the military junta since 1 February. In another disturbing incident, Lang Pyung, a woman in Waingmaw, Kachin State was shot and killed in cold blood on her motorbike by a group of military personnel from the 58th Infantry Battalion, while innocuously returning home from buying groceries on 13 August.

These incidents above illustrate the clearly intended terror the military junta has been waging against the people of Myanmar on a daily basis for over a period of 6 months, committing acts which amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Yet, many international actors are at risk of lending legitimacy to this illegitimate and murderous junta, including ASEAN and others partnering with the junta in the distribution of humanitarian aid. The actions of the military junta over decades of violence, weaponizing aid and blocking delivery of aid for their own political ends should fundamentally disqualify them as partners in providing humanitarian assistance and COVID-19 relief. Humanitarian assistance is a pressing issue given the overwhelming needs of the people on the ground due to political persecution, displacement due to armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the common antagonist and underlying root cause of these hardships is the Myanmar military, and thus to include them in the distribution of humanitarian aid poses a risk of further insecurity to Myanmar’s population.

Many within the international community have deferred the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar to ASEAN, purportedly under the leadership of a Special Envoy. After a long, three-month wait, ASEAN Ministers appointed Brunei Darussalam’s Foreign Affairs Minister II, Erywan Yusof as the Special Envoy to oversee the humanitarian and political solutions to the Myanmar crisis. In response, 413 Myanmar CSOs have resoundingly rejected the appointment of the Special Envoy, as it was made with the sole approval of the military junta. Subsequently from this, the Special Envoy has said his mandate does not allow him to call for the release of political prisoners and his approach until this point has only included consultations with the military junta, not the National Unity Government, Ethnic Armed Organizations, the Civil Disobedience Movement, CSOs, and other stakeholders. Former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and Member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee says “If the Special Envoy continues to engage only with the junta, he will be taken for a ride while the people of Myanmar suffer the consequences.” Additionally, Justice For Myanmar has recently reiterated that Brunei’s state business has a revenue sharing agreement with the junta-controlled Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), and cronies, raising a significant conflict of interest. These issues are incredibly pressing given the planning of a donor conference by ASEAN’s Secretary General seeking funds for the humanitarian response through the AHA Centre, but their capacity and experience to remediate the situation in Myanmar is stunted – not having wherewithal to remediate a complex political and man-made humanitarian crisis.

While ASEAN stagnates, Myanmar’s people are suffering without humanitarian assistance and COVID-19 relief, especially those ethnic communities, such as the Rohingya. Disturbingly, the military junta is denying the provision of COVID-19 vaccinations to Rohingya, excluding them from their vaccination plan. Remaining Rohingya in Rakhine State continue to live in highly vulnerable conditions, such as densely packed internal displacement camps, where apartheid-like conditions make it impossible for them to move freely and access healthcare – making them acutely susceptible to communicable diseases and COVID-19.

The Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), in response to this news, stated that the deliberate withholding of essential healthcare confirms the ongoing genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar. BROUK, joined calls made by 443 civil society organizations who sent a letter to the UN Secretary General for an immediate humanitarian intervention to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and provide urgent humanitarian assistance, but this call remains unanswered. However, there have been promising developments in the humanitarian response, as USAID is providing more than $50 million to Myanmar and US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield held a meeting online with Dr. Cynthia Maung, Executive Director of the Mae Tao Clinic and Chairperson of COVID-19 Task Force (newly formed by the National Unity Government and Ethnic Health Organisations), to discuss humanitarian needs and the COVID-19 pandemic for Myanmar.

While this progress is critical in the international efforts towards provision of humanitarian aid to Myanmar, further steps through a UN coordinated and unified international response is required to fully remedy this crisis in Myanmar. Simultaneously, supporting existing local structures, such as local humanitarian aid organizations and ethnic health organizations in recognition of their agency in assisting their people, including cross border aid, is essential. These groups have the expertise, knowledge, capacity and sensitivity to address the hardships the people of Myanmar are currently facing. More importantly, they have gained trust and confidence from the local communities, as they are from these communities. Furthermore, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the international community must support the COVID-19 Task Force. Supporting these organizations and working with them in equal partnership will address the humanitarian crisis and COVID-19 outbreak effectively, and thus will lessen the suffering of the people of Myanmar, while strengthening the local agency that will ensure communities prosper long after international organizations depart.


[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

90+ Organizations Urge a Rohingya Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide Determination

By 95 Organizations

CSOs call for UN Secretary-General to spearhead a UN coordinated humanitarian intervention to combat the catastrophic COVID-19 crisis in Myanmar

By 443 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

A repeated call for action against the Myanmar military junta from civil society organisations to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

By 477 Civil Society Organisations based in Myanmar and Australia

(၇၁) နှစ်မြောက် ကရင့်အာဇာနည်နေ့ အခမ်းအနားများသို့ ပေးပို့သော ရခိုင်ပြည်အမျိုးသားကောင်စီ (ANC/AA) ၏ သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Arakan National Council

Anti-coup’ Forces Coordination Committee – Mandalay: Announcement (6/2021)

By Anti-coup Forces Coordination Committee – Mandalay

Joint Media Release: US Treasury requested to deny a licence to permit Adani Ports’ business with sanctioned Myanmar military company

By Australian Centre for International Justice and Justice For Myanmar

Myanmar Military denies Rohingya COVID-19 vaccinations “This confirms the ongoing genocide”

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၁၂/၂၀၂၁ – သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန် ကြေညာချက်

By Demoso People Defense Force ,  Mobye People Defense Force and Pekhon People Defense Force

ASEAN’s role in Myanmar further undermined by Brunei business with military and cronies

By Justice For Myanmar

Statement on International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

By Karen Human Rights Group

Message from Karenni National Progressive Party ‘s Headquarters on the 73rd Anniversary of Karenni National Resistance Day

By Karenni National Progressive Party

Statement on Burmese Military Junta’s Activities in Karenni State

By Karenni National Progressive Party

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်ကောင်စီများနှင့် ပူးပေါင်းဆောင်ရွက်သူများနှင့်ပတ်သက်၍ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

KNDF ၏ တိုက်ပွဲသတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

KNU president Gen.Mutu Sae Poe’s Letter sent on 71st Anniversary of Karen National Martyrs Day

By Karen National Union

Joint Statement by the Ministry o f Women, Youths and Children Affairs & Ministry o f Human Rights Affairs of the National Unity Government of Myanmar 3/2021

By Ministry of Women ,  Youths and Children Affairs and Ministry of Human Rights

၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ် ဩဂုတ်လ (၁၀) ရက်နေ့တွင် ကျရောက်သည့် (၄၆) နှစ်မြောက် ကချင်အာဇာနည်နေ့သို့ ပေးပို့သည့် အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ၏ သဝဏ်လွှာ

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

“ကရင့်အမျိုးသားအာဇာနည်နေ့သို့ ပေးပို့သည့် အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ၏ သဝဏ်လွှာ”

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

PDF Pekhon ၏ တိုက်ပွဲသတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက် စာအမှတ် – ၂/၂၀၂၁

By People’s Defense Force – Pekhon

At Least 252 Reported Attacks and Threats to Health Care in Myanmar During Six Months of Military’s Crackdown

By Physicians for Human Rights

COVID-19 vaccinations begin in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

United States Announces More Than $50 Million In Humanitarian Assistance for Burma and $5 Million in COVID-19 Assistance for Thailand

By United States Agency for International Development



Many Rohingya Refugees Dead and Missing as Flooding Strikes Bhalukhali Refugee Camp

By Free Burma Rangers

Report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

By Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

Mae Tao Clinic COVID-19 Situation Update 3

By Mae Tao Clinic

Briefing Paper: Myanmar’s Representation in the United Nations

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Myanmar military leaders attempting to legitimize power: UN Special Envoy

By UN News Global perspective Human stories

WFP Myanmar Situation Report #3 August 2021

By World Food Programme

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.”