The Defiant Multitude

July 15th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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“We are living in a world where dictators support each other to retain their power. Therefore it must be clear that the struggle for democracy and freedom undertaken by the Myanmar people is a struggle that concerns everyone.”

Zin Mar Aung, National Unity Government’s Foreign Minister

This past week, student demonstrations were held commemorating 60 years since previous dictator, Ne Win, ordered the very first massacre of students at Yangon University, as well as the first major strikes by garment factory workers in one of Yangon’s major industrial zones since the coup attempt. Not only does this remind the world that the Spring Revolution is defiant and strong, it also underscores the cross-sector, inclusivity of the resistance.

In 1962, after seizing power in a military coup, General Ne Win ordered the massacre of protesting students at Yangon University, killing at least 100. The following day, the historic Student Union building, a symbol of anti-colonial resistance, was blown up. Each year, students in Myanmar commemorate this act of brutality with remembrance activities. The protests this and last year, coming after another attempt to seize control of the state by a power-hungry general, are all the more salient. Thus on 7th of July this year, student-led protests were held in towns and cities across Myanmar, including Sagaing, Tanintharyi, and Bago Regions, Kachin, and Mon States, and the two biggest cities of Yangon and Mandalay. A banner held at one of the protests read “With a strong mind, we will fight for a new world. Never forget what happened on 7.7.1962”. A statement by the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), the historic network of student unions in Myanmar, called for the people to fight the military however possible. Speaking to Radio Free Asia, Myat Min Khant, a representative of one of the ABFSU unions said that they wanted to remind people that “we are still in the middle of the ‘Spring Revolution,’ fighting against the fascist military. We want to remind them that the fascist military and the 2008 constitution, which is the backbone of the fascist army, must be removed if they want real freedom.”

Given the extreme violence perpetrated by junta forces on peaceful protesters since February 1st last year, the bravery of such protesters is striking. This was demonstrated when a car rammed one of the demonstrations in Yangon, shown in shocking video footage. As reported by Myanmar Now, this is not the first time that peaceful demonstrations have been faced with this type of violent tactic.

However, it is not just students that protested this week. Around 2,000 striking garment factory workers in Zaykabar Industrial Zone, Mingalardon Township, Yangon took collective action against the constant abuse of their rights as workers, including being forced to work overtime, reduced pay, and unrealistic production demands. This is the first major strike since the coup attempt, although trade unions and workers collectives were one of the first and most significant groups of people coming onto the streets in the immediate aftermath of the junta’s attempted power-grab. The worsening working conditions are directly linked to the junta’s actions. As outlined in a recent report by Freedom and Labor Action Group, the junta “has arrested many union and labor leaders and has taken various forms of action to suppress labor unions, making it nearly impossible to organize safely.” This persecution of unions and labor groups has had a negative impact on working conditions which is compounded by the economic crisis manifest in high inflation, less jobs, and the halving of the value of the Myanmar Kyat – all a direct consequence of the military’s coup attempt. Another instance of industrial action –  wildcat strike – held by food delivery riders from the company, Food Panda, in June over attempts to cut pay as well as other issues such as adequate health insurance for work-related injuries was also widely supported by the public. Employers such as Food Panda cutting wages in this time of severe economic hardship and political persecution makes a mockery of any corporate social responsibility discourse.

While the workers strikes and the student demonstrations this past week may not be directly linked to each other, they are connected in that they are both displays of resistance to the root cause of Myanmar’s political, economic, and social crises – the Myanmar military. The Spring Revolution, in which students, workers, ethnic and religious minorities and the LGBTQI community, among many other sectors, work together, shows the diverse multitude of people engaged in this resistance. However, power and exploitation are not just a Myanmar problem, and the broader structures and actors that facilitate such violence were reflected by the National Unity Government’s Foreign Minister, Zin Mar Aung who stated: “We are living in a world where dictators support each other to retain their power. Therefore it must be clear that the struggle for democracy and freedom undertaken by the Myanmar people is a struggle that concerns everyone.” Thus, the Spring Revolution is not just a Myanmar issue, but it is a manifestation of people’s resistance to violence and exploitation that can serve as a model for movements throughout the world. The transnational links between unions, student groups and human rights and democracy activists show that another future is possible, where it is not dictators supporting each other, but grassroots organizations and collectives, united in the face of attempts to dominate them.


[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

နှစ် ၆၀ ပြည့် ဆဲဗင်းဇူလိုင်နေ့ ပူးတွဲသဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By ပြည်သူ့လွတ်လပ်ရေးအဖွဲ့, ကျောင်းသားလက်ရုံးတပ်တော်, ပြည်သူ့လွတ်မြောက်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့, ပြည်သူ့တော်လှန်ရေးအင်အားစု အနောက်ပိုင်းဒေသ

Asia Justice Coalition Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the International Criminal Court

By Asia Justice Coalition

July 7 Anniversary Announcement: Justice will Prevail

By CRPH/NUG Support Group (Australia)

Statement on the Passing of Japanese Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

အစ္စလာမ်ဘာသာဝင်များသို့ ဆုတောင်းမေတ္တာပို့သခြင်း

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Foodpanda အလုပ်သမားသပိတ်အား ထောက်ခံဝန်းရံကြပါရန် ပြည်သူလူထုထံသို့ တိုက်တွန်းနှိုးဆော်ခြင်း

By General Strike Committee of Nationalities

Justice For Myanmar welcomes blocking of MRTV’s access to Dacast livestream software

By Justice For Myanmar

Outcomes of the Second Visit of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, on 30 June-02 July 2022

By Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia

ဆဲဗင်းဂျူလိုင် ကျောင်းသားအရေးတော်ပုံ နှစ်(၆၀) ပြည့် အခမ်းအနားများသို့ ပေးပို့သောသဝဏ်လွှာ

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

Statement on the killing of two Indian citizens in Tamu town

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

အီဒွလ် အဿွ်ဟာ (ကုရ်ဗာနီအီးဒ်) နေ့မြတ်သို့ အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရက ပေးပို့သည့်သဝဏ်လွှာ

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

Public Announcement for the Administration of Basic Education Completion Assessment, 2023

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

Statement on the visit of the ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Adoption of the resolution on the Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံအတွင်းရှိ ရိုဟင်ဂျာမူဆလင်များနှင့် အခြား လူနည်းစုများ၏ လူ့အခွင့်အရေးအခြေအနေဆိုင်ရာ ဆုံးဖြတ်ချက်များနှင့် ပတ်သက်သည့် ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးလုပ်ငန်းစဉ်ဦးဆောင်အဖွဲ့ (PPST) အစည်းအဝေး (၀၁/၂၀၂၂) ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Peace Process Steering Team



အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်အုပ်စု တာဝန်ခံရမည့် ရာဇဝတ်မှုခင်းများ

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Accountability for the Junta Criminals

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Violation of Freedom of Religion and Belief in Myanmar During Anti-Coup Revolution

By Burma Human Rights Network

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ၏ စစ်ရေးကြေညာချက်များ၊ အင်တာဗျူးများနှင့် ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးအဖွဲ့၊ တိုင်းရင်းသားလက်နက်ကိုင်များနှင့် ပြည်သူလူထုအပေါ် အကျိုးသက်ရောက်မှုများ

By General Strike Committee of Nationalities

Education in Danger Monthly News Brief, February 2022

By Insecurity Insight

Myanmar, Asia Pacific: Complex Emergency – Emergency Appeal N° MDRMM016 – Revised Operational Strategy

By International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies

Summary of SAC human rights violations in Karenni State and Pekhon Township (June 20 – July 3, 2022)

By Karenni Civil Society Network

ကရင်နီပြည်နယ်နှင့် ဖယ်ခုံမြို့နယ် အတွင်း စစ်ကောင်စီ၏ ချိုးဖောက်မှုများ အကျဉ်း (ဇွန်လ ၂၀ ရက်မှ ဇူလိုင်လ ၃ ရက် ၂၀၂၂ ခုနှစ်)

By Karenni Civil Society Network

Namkham villagers suffer from year-long electricity cut by China due to border dispute

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

နယ်စပ်အငြင်းပွားမှုပြသနာများကြောင့် နမ့်ခမ်းမြို့မှ ဒေသခံရွာသားများ ကာလရှည်ကြာ တရုတ်၏လျှပ် စစ်မီးဖြတ်တောက်မှုကိုခံနေရ

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 6 July 2022)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

WFP Myanmar Market Price Update (May 2022)

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.”