This year’s Thingyan New Year’s celebrations from 13 to 17 April fell flat and did not project the air of normality the junta wanted to, because so many people boycotted the celebrations, according to rights organisation Progressive Voice.
The people of Myanmar orchestrated a boycott of the festivities and refused to partake in junta-sponsored Thingyan activities – silently resisting at home or continuing protests or protecting their homes and villages through armed resistance.
Meanwhile, the military junta’s brutal scorched earth campaign and air strikes against civilians continued without abatement through Thingyan, particularly in Karen State.
The usual celebrations around Thingyan, including traveling and reuniting with family members, visiting monasteries and the streets full of people dousing each other with water to cleanse one another to bring in the Buddhist New Year, were abandoned by the people in protest.
Despite desperate attempts by the junta to set up events, pavilions, concerts and water stations, these all fell flat, with only a scattering of military personnel and military supporters attending. Dozens of photos circulated online of eerily deserted streets and empty concert venues through all major cities, including Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw.
One Strike Committee representative described their actions to news outlet Myanmar Now, saying: “We rallied the people to not take part in the Thingyan celebrations in order to not fall for the military’s propaganda efforts. It is now evident that our efforts were not in vain.”
These silent protests were followed by “Revolutionary Thingyan” protests where many people risked their lives to resist the junta on the streets of Myanmar. These actions were intended to humiliate the junta leadership, and dash any hopes the military held for the appearance of normality.
Traditionally around Thingyan, some prisoners will be given amnesty, but this year saw fewer released than last year. Only 1,600, prisoners were granted amnesty and there were no political prisoners amongst them.
10,259 people have been detained and remain in detention since 1 February, 2021. They are subject to routine torture, killing, beatings, interrogations, deprivation of medical treatments and family
visits in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. Sketches smuggled out of Insein Prison fully illustrate how dire the situation has become, with no beds, proper toilets or adequate sanitation.
Even without a boycott many would not have attended Thingyan celebrations because they didn’t think there was anything worth celebrating this year, given the junta’s ongoing murders, torture, arbitrary arrests, burning of villages and airstrikes, particularly in Sagaing and Magwe Regions and Karen, Chin and Karenni States.
In the last 14 months, the people have seen grave crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the junta in these communities and other regions of Myanmar.
Shamelessly, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing declared ‘a year of peace’ while junta forces continued to attack along the Asia Highway.
Karen State’s Lay Kay Kaw has also been subject to months of attacks and airstrikes by the junta, despite being dubbed the ‘City of Peace’. It was supposed to be a model peace town for refugees returning from Thai border refugee camps and was built with financial support from Japan’s Nippon Foundation as part of the failed peace process.
Yet, in spite of horrific attacks on the ground, the resistance holds strong. The National Unity Government (NUG) asserting the people of Myanmar control 45% of Myanmar’s territory, through local governance, ethnic controlled areas or territory under the control of PDFs.
Meanwhile, according to the NUG, over 10,000 soldiers have defected from all three branches of the Myanmar military – the army, navy and air force.
According to Progressive Voice his year’s Thingyan message was a clear and bold demonstration of the people’s resolve against the junta and persistent sacrifices for democracy, especially by the young generations.
A former teacher and Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) member, Hein Thiha, told Radio Free Asia that “The world can now see how our people are willing to sacrifice in the hope that democracy will one day flourish again.”
Progressive Voice believes it is of utmost importance that the international community fully recognize the sacrifices of Myanmar’s people for democracy – as they have shown with the people of Ukraine – and support the people of Myanmar, NUG and CDM in their efforts to banish the junta and restore democracy.
Governments, embassies, international donors and aid agencies must support the will of the people of Myanmar and not lend legitimacy to the junta by any means. From the junta’s perspective, engaging with them for collaboration and cooperation sends a signal of legitimacy, while it is also a tacit endorsement of their atrocity crimes.
Instead, Progressive Voice says these international actors must all support the Myanmar people and take steps to impose targeted sanctions on the military leadership and its economic interests, impose a global arms embargo and end the supply of jet fuel to the junta in the spirit of the Revolutionary Thingyan to pave the way for more international actions in full recognition of the Myanmar people’s will and sacrifices.