By THE IRRAWADDY 26 May 2023
A total of 19 Myanmar civil society organizations (CSOs) have urged the international community to recognize striking members of the country’s civil disobedience movement (CDM) against the repressive regime as human rights defenders and to support the ongoing movement.
“The world must recognize and provide political and material support to the CDM in their heroic struggle for democracy and human rights, and to end the military tyranny that is ongoing despite the atrocities they face,” the CSOs said in a new report released on Thursday.
The CDM—launched as the first mass act of defiance against the military’s attempted coup in February 2021—is a popular nationwide strike spearheaded by tens of thousands of civil servants who refuse to work under military rule. The CDM has paralyzed the junta’s attempts to govern the country, and its administration has struggled to cope. In response, the regime has targeted CDM participants—or “CDMers”, as they are known—with arrest, violence, dismissal from their jobs and eviction from government housing.
Now, more than two years on, many of the civil servants continue the strike despite the hardships and threats.
The 19 CSOs said in the report that the CDM has succeeded in preventing the junta from fully taking control and has underpinned the efforts of the governing entities of the resistance, including the National Unity Government, to construct a federal democratic Myanmar that guarantees inclusivity, equality and justice for all.
Many CDMers play leading roles in NUG ministries and work to provide essential social services to the Myanmar public, the CSOs said.
But many donors have been hesitant to fund CDMers, labeling their participation in the Spring Revolution as political, the report stated.
The report urges the international community to reassess its view of the CDM and recognize them as human rights defenders according to the accepted international definition. It cited Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”
“There is a strong sense in Myanmar that the international community is not providing enough support for the CDMers,” said Khin Ohmar, founder and chairperson of Progressive Voice.
She said the CDMers have been a key pillar of the Spring Revolution, fighting for a future federal democratic Myanmar that will put an end to one of the most violent military institutions in the world. If not for their clear stand and sacrifices, she said, Myanmar could have fallen completely under military control by now.
“CDMers, who peacefully protest against the military’s atrocities, serve as the living embodiment of human rights defenders. Persistent support, in all its forms, is crucial to maintaining and sustaining the movement,” said Benny Agus Prima, human rights defenders program manager at FORUM-ASIA.
Commenting on the launch of the report, Su, a teacher who has been taking part in the CDM, said despite the harassment and threats, the movement is determined to resist the Myanmar military until the revolution succeeds.
“Our struggle is not only to defend our own rights but the rights of new generations to come, so that they may enjoy the freedom that has been stolen from us by the tyranny of the military,” she said.
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