People of Myanmar Demonstrate the True Union Spirit

February 18th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
Featured image

“You can burn our village, but you cannot burn our spirit and land.”

Protesters in Pale Township, Sagaing Region

Myanmar’s Union Day, ostensibly to celebrate the union of the diverse peoples of Myanmar, passed on 12 February with the junta doing all it can to inflict terror and suffering on the entire population. Yet despite the military’s best efforts to destroy their resolve, the people of Myanmar are demonstrating inspiring levels of unity, solidarity, mutual aid, and determination to build the foundations of a country that is free from the tyranny of military rule.

Union Day marks the day that the Panglong Agreement was signed in 1947 between ethnic Burman leaders and some of the country’s non-Burman ethnic leaders, and was meant to ensure the right to self-determination for Myanmar’s diverse ethnic nationalities. Yet decades of centralized, military rule have made a mockery of that promise, misinterpreting the essence of the agreement as something to pacify ethnic peoples’ aspirations rather than building a nation together. The past 12 months shows that the Myanmar military has no intention of a genuine federal democratic union, only violence and desperation to cling on to power. For this year, 2022, the junta has engaged in some needy public relations exercises, such as announcing an amnesty of over 800 prisoners (amnesties often occur on this day) and inviting ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) for peace talks in Naypyidaw with ‘no strings attached.’ While the junta may have been attempting to give an impression of benevolence, none of those released in the prisoner amnesty included those arrested for peacefully protesting and displaying their opposition to the military’s coup attempt. At least 9,000 people are still being detained, and over 12,000 have been arrested since February 1st last year according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. These people should never have been arrested in the first place and the release is nothing more than the junta trying to generate positive headlines to mask its brutal violence.

Meanwhile, the junta’s ‘perpetual peace’ summit invitation is a farce that EAOs saw straight through. Many of the major EAOs rejected the invitation, including the Karen National Union (KNU), Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Chin National Front and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP). Furthermore, the junta stated that those they labelled “terrorist” groups, such as the National Unity Government, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) were not invited. This is despite the widespread legitimacy that these groups have in the eyes of the people of Myanmar, while it is the junta itself which is clearly a terrorist organization.

Not only was the invitation for the peace parley a case of weak PR, it is also a sign that the military is losing its war against the people. Armed conflict is increasing in the west of the country against the AA – an area that had escaped much of the violence of the past year. Combined with constant losses against a determined movement of PDFs, as well as EAOs’ staunch resistance, the junta is trying to reach out to EAOs to buy time and lessen the burden on their overstretched army. It has clearly failed.

Faced with daily losses of territory and personnel to the people’s resistance, the military is reacting the only way it knows how – extreme violence. In Sagaing Region, on 11 February, 5,000 people have had to flee the junta’s terror as entire villages were burned down in Mingin and Taze Townships. Two raids in Myinmu Township in the week of the 1st of February have left 24 people dead. On 6 February, shelling of a village in Kalay Township left eight people injured, including three children. These are just a few incidents that occurred in one region. Throughout the country massacres, airstrikes, human shields, and extrajudicial killings are being employed by the junta to subjugate a population that refuses to back down.

Disingenuous attempts such as the “perpetual peace” talks and release of some prisoners do not hide the fact that the military is the obstacle to a federal, democratic union of Myanmar. In fact, as the military wages war against the people, what is evident is that the people themselves are building a union, embodying the spirit of the Panglong Agreement, in spite of the junta. The local administrations set up throughout Magwe and Sagaing Regions and Chin State, added to the already existing administrations of EAOs exemplifies a genuine union spirit. Different peoples are exercising self-determination in their own locales, administering local affairs, providing protection to civilians, and providing health and education services and humanitarian assistance. At the same time as working locally, they are also working together to defeat the junta.

This is not a centralized, top down, governance, as seen with the previous NLD government, nor is it a rule by violence and fear, as seen in previous military dictatorships that the current military junta is trying to emulate. Rather, it is a union built on determination, solidarity, and empathy, laying the foundations for a future Myanmar that is finally rid of the murderous junta and dictatorship has been uprooted.

This spirit was exemplified in a photo taken in Pale Township, Sagaing Region this week. The junta had just burned down over one thousand houses there and in response, villagers staged a protest, holding charred pieces of their burned homes, with one banner saying “You can burn our village, but you cannot burn our spirit and land.” This past year has shown that the essence of Union Day is located not in the cynical and desperate attempts of the junta to consolidate the union through violent force and fear, but from the people themselves through strength, solidarity and determination.


[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

Myanmar: Resist the Digital Coup

By 41 Civil Society and International Organizations

Resist Myanmar’s Digital Coup: Stop the Military Consolidating Digital Control

By 48 Civil Society Organizations

Statement Signed by 694 Civil Society Organizations to Oppose Telenor’s Irresponsible Management of User Data and Its Plan to Sell Telenor Myanmar to a Military-Linked Company

By 694 Civil Society Organizations

The Whole World’s Watching: Resist Myanmar’s Digital Coup

By Access Now

Evergreen Marine Stops Using Military-Owned Ports in Burma

By Burma Campaign UK

UK Government Warns Companies Against Supplying Aviation Fuel to Burmese Military

By Burma Campaign UK

Sanction Aviation Fuel to Alleviate Humanitarian Crisis in Burma

By Burma Campaign UK

ပင်လုံစာချုပ် ချုပ်ဆိုခြင်း (၇၅) နှစ်မြောက်နေ့သို့ ပေးပို့သည့်သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Statement: HURFOM Calls for An End to Unlawful Arrests of Innocent Civilians

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Myanmar: Japan Construction Giant Should End Military Partnership

By Human Rights Watch

New Evidence of Deep and Continuing Military Links to Telenor Myanmar Buyer Shwe Byain Phyu Group

By Justice For Myanmar

Leaked Documents Reveal Military-Linked Companies Procured USD Millions in Arms and Equipment

By Justice For Myanmar

ကေအဲန်ယူ-ကရင်အမျိုးသားအစည်းအရုံး၊ ဥက္ကဌ ဗိုလ်ချုပ်ကြီး စောမူတူးစေးဖိုး၏ (၇၄) ကြိမ်မြောက် ကရင့်အမျိုးသားနေ့သို့ ပေးပို့သော သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Karen National Union

KSCC ၏ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်။

By Karenni State Consultative Council

(၇၅) နှစ်မြောက် စိန်ရတု သျှမ်းပြည်နယ် အမျိုးသားနေ့ အခမ်းအနားသို့ ကလေးတက္ကသိုလ် ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ (ကလ.တ.က.သ)မှ ပေးပို့သည့်သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Kalay University Students’ Union

Humanitarian Assistance to the People of Myanmar

By Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

ပင်လုံစာချုပ်ချုပ်ဆိုခြင်း (၇၅)နှစ်ပြည့် သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By National Unity Consultative Council

ပင်လုံစာချုပ်ချုပ်ဆိုခြင်း ၇၅ နှစ်ပြည့်အထိမ်းအမှတ် အခွန်တံဆိပ်ခေါင်းများ ထုတ်ဝေမည်ဖြစ်ကြောင်း အသိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

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

Call for Humanitarian and Health Assistance Statement

By National Unity Government (President Office)

ယာယီဆေးနှင့်ဆေးနှီးနွှယ် တက္ကသိုလ်/ကျောင်း ကောင်စီများ၏ ကြားကာလ ပညာရေး၊ သင်ကြားရေး အစီအစဉ်များနှင့် ပတ်သက်သော ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

The Karenni Human Rights Group and The Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma Release a New Joint Report Calling for Accountability for Human Rights Violations Committed in Karenni (Kayah) State

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma and Karenni Human Rights Group

Statement by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations at the First Regular Session of the Executive Board of UNICEF

By Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations

Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to the Situation in and in Relation to Burma

By The White House, United States

UNHCR steps up aid for displaced in Myanmar as conflict intensifies

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Displaced families in crisis-hit Myanmar struggle for survival

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees



Special Edition: A year of Struggle in Burma

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

Myanmar Situation Update (31 January- 6 February 2022)

By Asian Network for Free Elections

We Also Have Dreams

By Burma Human Rights Network

“The World Must Know”

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma and Karenni Human Rights Group

Briefing Paper: Myanmar’s Case at the International Court of Justice

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

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.”