It has been over a year since the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) resounding landslide victory on 8 November, 2020, an election significant not only in terms of the voter support for the NLD and disenfranchisement of the Rohingya and other Muslims but also in terms of the clear repudiation of the Myanmar military and military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Many are reflecting on the events that have shaped the past year, which has seen a brutal attempted coup d’etat, continuing and reignition of large scale conflict in ethnic areas, heinous scorched earth operations against civilian populations in central and western Myanmar, deepening humanitarian crisis, economic collapse, all occurring during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
Yet, the UN Security Council has again failed to meet this moment and effectuate peace and security in Myanmar as a part of their mandate under the UN Charter in the wake of this illegally attempted coup, even after repeated siren calls from civil society and the people of Myanmar. Most recently, 521 civil society organizations stressed the need for the UN Security Council to take urgent action to prevent attacks in north-western Myanmar as the military junta geared up for a massive military offensive in Chin State and Sagaing and Magwe Regions. The response from the UN Security Council was through a press statement echoing familiar language from previous statements and statements from other UN bodies, such as ‘deep concern’, calling for a ‘cessation in violence’ and ‘the military to show the utmost restraint’. This statement could be seen as “diplomatic success” as it was agreed to by all 15-members, particularly the 2 largest defenders of the murderous Myanmar military, China and Russia. However, it is wholly insufficient to address an attempted coup nine months on, and similar to the UN Security Council’s statement on 4 February, 2021, and previous statements condemning this military during the Rohingya Genocide in 2017, it has not deterred the military junta from continuing to perpetrate atrocity crimes. In a press release in response, representatives from Myanmar civil society organizations expressed their deep disappointment at the Council’s repeated failure to take proportionate actions given the gravity of the crisis in Myanmar. In the press release, Wai Wai Nu of Women Peace Network recalled the historical failure by the UN Security Council, saying “The lack of action by the UN Security Council is appalling. They failed to act before and after the 2017 Rohingya genocide and they are once again failing the people of Myanmar as the Myanmar military junta commits egregious crimes including crimes against humanity with total impunity.”
In spite of the UN Security Council’s failings, the people of Myanmar continue to stand strong in their opposition to the military junta and steadfast towards their goal of a fully-fledged federal democracy. The Spring Revolution marches on with sporadic protests, civil disobedience activities, boycotts of military products and strikes organized by the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), labor unions, General Strike Committees, student groups and youth organizations. Workers and labor unions were one of the first groups that appeared on the street protests in Yangon after the 1 February coup attempt and have been a strong presence within the resistance since, being able to mobilize large numbers of people behind a unified message and collective actions. Many within unions belong to sectors that have made massive sacrifices for the cause, including arbitrary arrest, loss of life, living under Martial Law and suffered job losses as a result of the junta’s brutal crackdown. Those in the CDM and General Strike Committees have risked everything for this cause and have been months without jobs, steady income and with some being evicted from housing connected with their employment. The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicted in July that 2.2 million jobs had been lost and 1.2 million jobs had been suspended, with 30 percent of these job losses in the garment industry – an industry dominated by women. The ILO says that women represent three fifths of these job losses.
These massive job losses, which are now likely to far exceed the numbers stated in July, are indicative of the wider economic collapse in Myanmar that the junta’s has caused since its attempted coup – driving millions of people into poverty. According to Myanmar’s UN Humanitarian Coordinator, 3 million people are in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, with the number only likely to rise and food insecurity in cities becoming rampant. For those still in employment, low wages that have not kept up with currency hyper-inflation and deteriorating employment conditions are adding to people’s hardships. According to an online discussion organized by Myanmar Labour News about the current situation of workers in Myanmar on 7 November, employers are threatening to hand over workers to the military junta if they complain about working conditions – putting them in the position of accepting unpaid overtime and poor working conditions.
Many of these labor unions are involved in driving advocacy in connection with global union networks to try and influence change within governments to end the military’s campaign of terror – including the use of economic sanctions. Yet, workers within Myanmar are conscious that any economic sanctions applied to Myanmar could adversely affect their livelihood. For instance, the Worker’s Solidarity League of Burma has conducted a survey of 400 workers across different sectors in which 97 percent of those surveyed did not want to see a Comprehensive Economic Sanctions (CES) that would impact them. The ability of workers and their trade unions to organize and mobilize ever since the attempted coup have played a major factor in the resistance. While working conditions and threats in these sectors continue, decimating whole sectors such as garments would hamper this organizational ability. Furthermore, CES are a blunt tool that would have minimal impact on the junta’s financial health, unlike major industries in which they are heavily invested and implicated in, such as mining of precious stones, oil and gas, and through sectors that military-run conglomerates – Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd and Myanmar Economic Corporation are majorly invested in. International governments must step up and impose more precisely calculated targeted sanctions against military junta’s leaders, military affiliated businesses and military cronies, as well as initiating a global arms embargo and refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. Such targeted sanctions would directly impact the ability of the junta to finance its campaign of terror and would force them to capitulate and yield power to the civilian government.
Since the UN Security Council remains largely inactive on the crisis in Myanmar, the international community must rally around the people of Myanmar to support the Spring Revolution, including by supporting people within the CDM, General Strike Committees, civil society organizations, and labor unions, with their roadmap to establish a genuine federal democracy. Particularly, businesses that operate in Myanmar must support workers, including those who joined the protests, through this difficult time by continuing to operate their business or furlough employees with financial support. Especially, where the UN Security Council falters, the international community must step up to further support those on the ground in Myanmar who have risked and sacrificed everything for democracy. The people of Myanmar deserve to live in a fully-fledged democracy with dignity, free from military violence and impunity.
 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.
By Amnesty International
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
By Chinland Defense Force – Matupi
By Chaung U People’s Defence Force, Monywa People Defence Force, Myaung Special People’s Defense Force, 27 Revolution Forces and T.G.R (Myaung)
By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw
By Council of the European Union
By Council of the European Union
By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
By Interim University Council – University of Yangon
By Justice For Myanmar
By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force
By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Communications, Information and Technology)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)
By National Unity Government
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Commerce)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Justice)
By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
By People’s Defence Force – Kalewa
By Pale PDF-Headquarters
By Progressive Voice, Women Peace Network and Chin Human Rights Organization
By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar
By United States Department of State
By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)
By Fortify Rights
By Karenni Civil Society Network
By Project Maje
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.”