Myanmar’s People Will Triumph

December 23rd, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  13 minute read
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Support for the valuable and essential work of local civil society and humanitarian organizations through cross border and direct funding streams must be scaled up, as the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar deepens. 

This year has been incredibly challenging for the people of Myanmar as the junta intensifying its war of terror, but they continue to valiantly resist the military junta’s illegal coup attempt of 1 February 2021. Another year marked by incredible loss and tragedy but one that has shown the world the strength of a movement spearheaded by ordinary people defending democracy against military tyranny. It is important to reflect and take stock as we approach the end of 2022, and look to 2023 – grieving the losses and resolute in our determination towards a Union that is a genuine federal democracy, which guarantees equality and justice for all peoples, in full respect of the rule of law. Crucially, we must reflect on the military-induced political, human rights and humanitarian crises, the military junta’s nefarious plans to seize power through sham elections in 2023 and the worsening situation of Rohingya and other ethnic and religious communities, which the international community must urgently reckon with.

This year the military junta has intensified their airstrikes, deliberately targeting civilians, schools, places of worship and hospitals in violation of international law. The military junta’s all-out war against the people of Myanmar has triggered mass displacement – with at least 1.4 million people displaced (at least 1.1 million since 1 February 2021), which has seen incredible need for humanitarian aid nationwide. Since the junta continues to weaponize aid and restrict access to international and national aid agencies, local Myanmar civil society and community-based organizations and humanitarian networks have risen to the challenge, addressing as best they can the increasing humanitarian needs of especially most vulnerable communities. While the local networks, systems and infrastructures are in place to receive assistance through border based and direct funding, donors have not met the needs on the ground with flexibility and sufficiency.

Support for the valuable and essential work of local civil society and humanitarian organizations through cross border and direct funding streams must be scaled up, as the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar deepens. These local groups are best placed to reach and serve those communities in need – with proven track records of success. It is wholly insufficient for governments and donors to provide assistance through UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations that work with the military junta – aid simply does not reach those most in need. Last week in Karenni State, World Food Programme rice sacks intended for internally displaced persons (IDPs) were being sold in the local stores in Loikaw, sold to those who can afford it and failing to reach those in need. This is not new to local people. The military junta continues to weaponize humanitarian aid in their war against the people of Myanmar in 2022 – destroying aid and refusing to let UN and other aid actors have access to IDPs where the aid is desperately needed. As Progressive Voice’s Chairperson of the Advisory Board has articulated consistently since the coup attempt, “There is nothing neutral about engaging with Myanmar’s military”. Donors and humanitarian organizations face a crucial choice. In Myanmar, requiring all humanitarian action to stick to the orthodox principle of neutrality means working with an illegitimate military junta who lacks legitimacy and does not have full territorial control on the ground. Instead, the international aid community can choose to support rights-based and ethnic civil society organizations and the pro-democracy movement.

It is completely nonsensical and cruel to continue to facilitate aid by engaging and negotiating with the very perpetrators who have caused this crisis through forced displacement, torture, rape, and murders of civilians and torched villages carte blanche. Yet the international community’s predominant means of providing aid is through the junta and has been the status quo for decades, despite the massive red flags. It is imperative the international community shift their focus and funding towards local civil society and humanitarian organizations – promoting humanitarian resistance. In a recent report, Karen Human Rights Group details war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Myanmar military in southeast Myanmar through testimonials over the past 30 years – the patterns are undeniable. The military junta is the root cause of suffering for Karen people and all other people in Myanmar and must be held to account for all these decades long widespread and systematic violations and atrocity crimes.

Another year has passed and the situation for the Rohingya is worsening as the community continues to face genocidal conditions inside Myanmar, trapped in open-air prison camps in squalor, denied the most basic human rights – adequate healthcare, housing, freedom of movement and education. Rohingya continue to live in perpetual fear and suffering at the hands of the military junta, who launched fresh attacks in Rakhine State this year, with many civilians still reeling from previous conflict in Rakhine State in 2018 – 2020 and the start of the Rohingya genocide preceding this in 2017. When they attempt to escape the horrors of their situation, many are persecuted further. Three hundred and ninety-eight Rohingya were arrested for traveling without travel permits in their own country – a part of the military’s ongoing apartheid policy and practices towards the Rohingya. Steps towards justice and accountability for these atrocities, including the Rohingya genocide, remain to be seen. The UN has consistently failed Rohingya, ethnic and religious minority communities and the people of Myanmar, as outlined in a UN-mandated independent report by Gert Rosenthal in 2019 and which has been utterly whitewashed by the UN Secretary-General this year – failing to execute recommendations issued by their own independently appointed review.

Many Rohingya in refugee camps on the Bangladesh border feel there is no other option than to seek safety and a better life in another country, taking a treacherous trip by sea – even though they may perish on the journey. This month one hundred and sixty Rohingya refugees, including children, were stranded in the Andaman Sea without food and water in need of rescue – despite being in Malaysia’s sea and rescue zone. Rohingya face discrimination and ill-treatment in Malaysia detention centers, with the Malaysian government refouling them back to Myanmar where they will be persecuted by the military junta – against international law.

The response from the international community to the Myanmar crisis, particularly the US, EU, Canada and UK, has seen some welcomed progress, including placing targeted sanctions on members of the junta’s leadership and its businesses and affiliated businesses. The US Congress recently passed the long-awaited BURMA Act 2022 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and the US government’s Rohingya genocide determination are also very much welcomed. From here, there has to be a rallying of global collective actions against the military junta to solidify these steps, including a global arms embargo, sanctions on aviation fuel supplies to the junta to end airstrikes and cutting to flow of funds to junta from oil and gas sector. Crucially, the final version of the BURMA Act included in the NDAA removed explicit language on sanctions against military-run Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE) from the original full-length BURMA Act, which did not go through the Senate after being passed by House of Representatives in April 2022. A major source of foreign revenue to the junta comes through the MOGE which it uses to fund their atrocity crimes. However, the BURMA Act under the NDAA, allows for discretionary sanctions to be placed on entities like MOGE, and this must be urgently actioned to end the junta’s revenue flow.

While continuing its fierce attacks on the people of Myanmar, the junta is quietly preparing to call and hold “elections” despite having no lawful authority to do so or any mandate from the people. In the wake of the coup attempt, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing has arrested and hijacked the Union Elections Commission (UEC), installed his own cronies at the UEC, preparing voter registration, persecuting politicians and is attempting to alter the electoral conditions in his favor. It is an absolute farce aimed at clinging to any semblance of legitimacy to deceive the international community. It is crucial that the international community must not be induced again by this military into the false promise of an election but realize this deception. Myanmar junta ally and Japanese Special Envoy to Myanmar, Yohei Sasakawa, has suggested the election is a viable way towards democratization but purposely ignores the fact the military has no authority to call or hold any elections. Sasakawa must not undermine Myanmar peoples’ intelligence, as past experiences show the military manipulates so-called peace talks for their own ends, attempted a coup and committed horrific atrocities against the people over decades and decades. It is imperative for the international community, particularly INGOs that facilitate elections in the global south or governments, not to recognize or lend any assistance to these sham elections. What kind of legitimacy will there be for this election? Even if their 2008 military-drafted constitution gave them a mandate, Myanmar’s people overwhelmingly rejected this junta and are resisting its attempt to seize power. In any event, the military-drafted constitution of 2008 has been declared null and void by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and National Unity Government, and the Federal Democracy Charter has been adopted, which will be followed by federal and state constitutions.

Overall, the UN, ASEAN, States and INGOs must shift their focus away from placing the military junta at the center of solution to the Myanmar crisis. The will of the people of Myanmar should be at the heart of all decisions concerning Myanmar affairs that the UN, ASEAN, States and INGOs must respect and follow. The UN in particular has alienated and discriminated against the people of Myanmar this year, particularly and obviously when comparing the UN and UN Secretary-General’s coordinated efforts in Ukraine. With no permanent UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar for many years, the UN’s approach has been fragmented, harmful and inconsistent, shaking hands with the junta after repeated calls from civil society to the UN Secretary-General and UN agencies not to lend any legitimacy to the junta. The UN must support the Myanmar people’s humanitarian resistance by supporting local organizations, place concerted efforts on alleviating the suffering of the IDPs including the Rohingya – learning from their past systemic failures detailed in the Rosenthal Report and stop actions that lend legitimacy to the junta.

While the people of Myanmar reflect on the year that was, we urge the international community to also reflect and look at their actions and failed responses in Myanmar. The people of Myanmar will be triumphant in their desire and determination for a genuine federal democracy through their grassroots and bottom-up people’s revolution, and the illegal military junta will fall. With meaningful and concerted effort and support from the UN, ASEAN, States and INGOs, the revolution will win sooner, less people will suffer and those who have lost their lives would not have died in vain.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to continuing our work with you in the coming year as the people of Myanmar strive for federal democracy and freedom. Our Weekly Highlights will take a short hiatus but will return with our regular schedule in January 2023. We wish you a safe and joyous holiday and all the best for 2023.

In Solidarity,

The Progressive Voice Team


[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

Malaysia: Government must stop forcible return of people to Myanmar

By Amnesty International

Open letter on the situation of human rights and human rights defenders in Southeast Asia ahead of the inaugural ASEAN – EU Summit

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Myanmar’s jailing of journalists enters harsh new phase

By Committee to Protect Journalists

Myanmar Junta’s Death Penalty to Seven University Students, Barbaric

By European Rohingya Council

Undeniable: War crimes, crimes against humanity and 30 years of villagers’ testimonies in rural Southeast Burma

By Karen Human Rights Group

Myanmar’s Illegal Junta Fails in Recognition Bid at UN General Assembly

By Myanmar Accountability Project

Statement on the situation of Rohingya refugees

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Statement of Acting President Duwa Lashi La On Passage by the US Congress of the BurmaAct

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

Message of the Union Minister for Labour of The National Unity Government of Myanmar on the International Migrants Day

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Labour)

New SAC-M Briefing Paper: The ICC Can End the Myanmar Military’s Impunity

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Resettlement Initiative for Vulnerable Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

By United States Department of State

USCIRF Releases New Report on Burma

By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

အမျိုးသမီးများအဖွဲ့ချုပ် (မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ) (၁၁) ကြိမ်မြောက် ညီလာခံ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Women’s League of Burma



The Revolution Will Not Be Broadcast – Myanmar: IFJ Situation Report 2022

By International Federation of Journalists

Attacks on Health Care in Myanmar (16-29 November 2022)

By Insecurity Insight

The Shifting Political Economy of Natural Resource Governance in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region Following the February 2021 Military Coup

By Independent Research Network

Undeniable: War crimes, crimes against humanity and 30 years of villagers’ testimonies in rural Southeast Burma

By Karen Human Rights Group

Bent Roads: Exploring the Impact of Development Projects in Two Communities in Myanmar

By Karen Peace Support Network

Rohingya Human Trafficking Monitoring Report (Feb 21 – October 22)

By Knowledge Hub Myanmar

Hope amid Despair: Finding Solutions for Rohingya in Bangladesh

By Refugee International

SAC-M Briefing Paper: The ICC Can End the Myanmar Military’s Impunity

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Burma Policy Update

By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Myanmar Landmine/ERW Incidents Information Factsheet (January-October 2022)

By United Nations Children’s Fund

အမျိုးသမီးများအဖွဲ့ချုပ် (မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ) ၏ နိုင်ငံရေးကြေညာစာတမ်း

By Women’s League of Burma

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်အုပ်စု၏ နိုင်ငံရေးထွက်ပေါက်မှန်သမျှ ဆန့်ကျင်တိုက်ဖျက်ကြ

By Women’s League of Burma

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.”