International Community Must Step Up as Military Junta Continues Atrocities and Sinks the Economy

October 11th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
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“For the people on the ground, these atrocities committed by the military junta are an ever present threat, and at the same time they are struggling to find ways to sustain themselves financially.”

The situation in Myanmar is deteriorating at a rapid pace, with more people facing food insecurity and financial strain in the aftermath of the military’s attempted coup d’état on 1 February, 2021. The military junta is the root cause of the current economic woes in Myanmar, ruining the banking system, fuelling economic instability through conducting a campaign of terror and worsening the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid this economic uncertainty and other hardships, the junta is destroying peoples homes and livelihoods, leaving people without any means to sustain themselves or their families. They are deliberately trying to demoralize the population and erode the resistance movement, through collective punishment including mass killings, burning and raiding homes, looting and destroying property, stripping people of their lands and inflicting all-out war across the country, especially in ethnic regions.

Last week, the Myanmar kyat hit an all-time low against the US dollar, losing 60 percent of its pre-February value and reaching as low as 3,000 kyat to 1 US dollar with currency sellers. Before the attempted coup, the exchange rate was 1,400 kyat to 1 US dollar, signalling that Myanmar is now on the road towards hyperinflation. The Central Bank of Myanmar released $200 million of its foreign currency reserves but this had not mitigated the currency collapse. Last Monday, the World Bank projected an 18% downturn in GDP caused by the military junta’s coup attempt. In a recent report, the Independent Economists for Myanmar characterized the management of the banking system after the military junta illegally commandeered it as “incompetent”, with a full collapse of the banking system only narrowly avoided. The report also concluded military leadership’s heavy-handed attempts to stabilize the banking sector through market coercion have failed, because without access to cash people cannot spend to drive the economy, feed themselves, get money for investments and be paid wages. Even if a person has cash within their bank account it is extremely difficult to access this, waiting hours for cash at the bank, limits placed on the amount a person can withdraw, or lining up at one of only 100 functioning ATMs in a country of 57 million people.

The fallout has hit ethnic communities on borderlands particularly hard, as many still function on a cash based economic system, and are reliant on border trade with China, India and Thailand to get commodities, for work and agricultural exports. In Muse, Shan State, thousands of trucks with rotting crops sit stranded at the closed border with China – a trade route that accounts for 70 percent of Myanmar’s overland exports. Exports have plummeted by $534m over the past year because of the closed border at Muse, with total exports falling $2.4bn for the past financial year. This overland route is crucial for imports as well, especially for medical supplies to combat COVID-19 and for other medical needs. A devaluing currency has resulted in transportation costs doubling, and demand for local farmers’ produce is falling – creating a perfect storm for economic catastrophe and food crisis. The World Food Programme estimates that 3.4 million people are food insecure in Myanmar.

These economic hardships do not exist in isolation but make up part of the overwhelming hardships caused by the military junta. While many media pundits and commentators are focused on nuances of the declaration of the peoples’ defensive war, the reality on the ground is that millions of people are suffering and have had lives torn apart at the hands of the military junta. Last week in Nyaung Wun, Mandalay, residents of nearly 200 homes were forced to relocate from their homes at gunpoint by the military junta after being told in September they would need to dismantle their homes for allegedly “encroaching on military land”. The land was taken from the villagers in the 1990s without compensation and granted to Great Wall Agricultural Co. Ltd for a 30-year lease. The land was then leased back to the villagers, from which they had to pay dues to the company of 2 tons of sugarcane per acre. Soldiers are now camped out near the village, with more than 500 villagers forcibly evicted and sheltering at a nearby monastery. This is not only about possessions, crops, houses being dismantled and destroyed, but also about the loss of a community together with its culture and traditions. One villager explains this is adding to the economic strain already felt by the villagers, who have to pay for the demolition, relocation and rebuilding of their lives. He exclaims that “How can we rebuild our houses when we are all struggling to make ends meet?”

In Magway, many are also coming to terms with the reality that their lives and homes are being destroyed by the military junta. More than 3,000 people from Gangaw Township have been displaced to the surrounding jungle due to a series of raids on their villages. During September, the military junta burned 50 houses in 13 villages in Gangaw Township, and among those displaced are 30 pregnant women and 60 children. Currently, these IDPs are without adequate food, water and medical care and unable to return home. In a similar raid in Pyin Htaung Village, Sagaing Region, five people were killed attempting to flee a raid by the military junta – including Myo Thandar Hlaing, a six-year-old girl whose father is a junta soldier stationed in another battalion. One onlooker describes that “They started firing shots randomly as soon as they entered the village,” he said. “Those who ran into the soldiers ended up getting shot.”

For the people on the ground, these atrocities committed by the military junta are an ever present threat, and at the same time they are struggling to find ways to sustain themselves financially. Yet, amidst these overwhelming obstacles they have the strength to continue to defy the military junta, because of their enduring will for a federal democracy and better future after decades of military oppression. The Spring Revolution needs the staunch and continued support of the international community, with concrete actions for the peoples of Myanmar to successfully defeat the military junta. It is an incredible shame that the UN Security Council remains dysfunctional and the UN system as a whole continues to fail to protect the people of Myanmar. They have fallen short of their own mandate and promise for global peace and security, to uphold human rights, and to further humanitarian principles and democracy. Thus, the wider international community must step forward to fill this void, stand with the Myanmar people, recognize the National Unity Government as the legitimate leaders of Myanmar, and support local civil society and humanitarian aid organizations with necessary resources so that these courageous local actors can serve their communities timely and effectively.


[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

Probe Into The Gruesome Killing Of Refugee Leader Mohammed Mohibullah Demanded

By 27 Burmese Rohingya Organisations

Bangladesh: Investigate killing of prominent Rohingya activist Mohib Ullah

By Amnesty International

ပြည်သူ့စစ်သားနှင့် ပြည်သူ့ရဲများ CNDF ထံသို့ အလင်းဝင်

By Chin National Organization

CDF – Kalay Kabaw Gangaw ၏ ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၂/၂၀၂၁

By Chinland Defense Force (Kalay-Kabaw-Gangaw)

Tender အပါအဝင် SAC စီမံကိန်းများ နောက်ဆုံးခွင့်ပြုရက် နှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ ထပ်မံ သတိပေးခြင်း

By Chinland Defense Force – Hakha

Amicus Curiae Submitted to Argentinian Federal Court

By Fortify Rights

Argentina: Prosecute Crimes Against Rohingya in Myanmar

By Fortify Rights

Bangladesh: Investigate Assassination of Rohingya Human Rights Defender Mohib Ullah

By Fortify Rights

Justice For Myanmar releases data on Htoo Group of Companies for targeted sanctions

By Justice For Myanmar

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ၊သယံဇာတနှင့်သဘာဝပတ်ဝန်းကျင်ထိန်းသိမ်းရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက် (၁၅/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation)

National Unity Government Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment – PRESS RELEASE

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment)

Bachelet shocked by killing of Rohingya human rights defender

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

PDF(Tamu)တပ်ရင်း(၁)၏လမ်းညွှန်ချက်များနှင့်အညီ Gurkha Defence Force(GDF)ဖွဲ့စည်းလိုက်ကြောင်း အသိပေးကြေညာချက် – စာအမှတ် ၁/၂၀၂၁

By People Defense Force – Tamu

Press Release Regarding The Murder Of Mohammad Mohib Ullah, Chairman Of The Arakan Rohingya Society For Peace and Human Rights

By Republic of Turkey (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Statement on the Murder of Mohib Ullah

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Myanmar Military Junta Engaging in Terrorism with Flagrant Disregard for United Nations Meetings

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Joint statement by GAVI, UNICEF and WHO on efforts to accelerate COVID vaccine availability in Myanmar

By The United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization

Statement From Spring Revolution Interfaith Network – Statement No. – 5/2021

By The Spring Revolution Interfaith Network

On the Killing of Rohingya Muslim Advocate Mohib Ullah

By United States Department of State



Myanmar Humanitarian Update No. 11 | 1 October 2021

By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Myanmar Humanitarian Fund Update (As of 30 September 2021)

By United Nations 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.”