Future Federal

July 13th, 2023  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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Forming these new governance entities and working together with existing ethnic organizations is part of building the new Myanmar, where federalism is practiced as a process of the Spring Revolution, and not just a rhetorical mention as per previous military regimes and indeed the NLD-led government during the alleged ‘transition to democracy’ years.

As Myanmar’s illegal military junta continues to punish the entire population for having the temerity to resist its over two years-long brutal coup attempt, communities in Myanmar are already practicing forms of democratic federalism. The last few weeks have seen the establishment of a coordinated governance body in Karenni State and the convening of a forum for better cooperation among revolutionary organizations in Sagaing Region, both of which are pledging to work with various revolutionary forces throughout the country to build the federal democracy that is the goal of the Spring Revolution. Furthermore, defections in Karenni State from junta proxy forces show that its power and control of territory is weakening month-by-month.

In Karenni State, the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF), which had served as a Border Guard Force under the command of the Myanmar military since 2009, defected to join the resistance forces last month. In its announcement, the KNPLF made clear its intention to defeat the military junta and to work with various other components of the Spring Revolution, including the National Unity Government (NUG). Associate Secretary for the KNPLF stated, “Our goal is the same as the people’s. It is to overthrow the military dictatorship and to eliminate all the pillars supporting it. It is the people’s liberation.” Residual anger within the group remains since four KNPLF members were murdered by junta troops as they tried to negotiate during the Moso Massacre in Hpruso Township of Christmas Eve 2021 – an atrocity where over 31 unarmed civilians were massacred by the junta and their bodies burned. Two KNPLF battalions joined existing Karenni resistance forces including the Karenni Army, the Karenni National Defence Force, and People’s Defence Forces in attacks against junta outposts in Mese Township on 13 June. The junta responded with indiscriminate airstrikes, displacing 5,000 people, while in other parts of the state, airstrikes have continued, taking more lives and causing more destruction.

The defection of the KNPLF battalions is an indication of a strengthening of unity within Karenni State – large swathes of which are under the control of resistance forces. Just last month, the Interim Executive Council (IEC) was formed, which will oversee governance functions, to ensure checks and balances between different legislative, executive and judicial branches, and to coordinate and ensure cooperation between the various revolutionary forces of Karenni State. It comes under the guidance and political leadership of the Karenni State Consultative Council, formed two years ago in April 2021 to defeat the junta, abolish the 2008 Constitution, and establish a federal democratic union. This is an important step, not just in resisting the junta, but in terms of building the alternative, federal governance structures that will shape a new Myanmar. It is a manifest implementation of self-determination. This unity among Karenni actors and forces is a clear contestation of the Myanmar military’s decades-long tactics of divide-and-rule that it has employed to prevent ethnic organizations and communities from joining forces.

It is not only Karenni State that is establishing such interim governance bodies and councils. Other examples include the Interim Chin National Consultative Council and the Kachin Political Interim Coordination Team. In Sagaing Region, the recently convened Sagaing Forum, where various resistance forces throughout the region came together to discuss cooperation, released a statement outlining their goal to “establish the Sagaing Region Consultative Council (or) a body where all political and revolutionary organizations of the state can collectively coordinate and make decisions in order to eliminate all forms of dictatorship.”

These bodies are a complement to the firmly established political administration of long-standing Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs) such as the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Organization, to name just two. Indeed, as KNU Chairman, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, articulated during his speech on Karen National Liberation Army Day, the KNU will continue to cooperate with all forces to end military dictatorship. Forming these new governance entities and working together with existing ethnic organizations is part of building the new Myanmar, where federalism is practiced as a process of the Spring Revolution, and not just a rhetorical mention as per previous military regimes and indeed the NLD-led government during the alleged ‘transition to democracy’ years. There is a unity among and between ethnic groups – including the Bamar – as well as an inclusive, bottom-up approach to governance. Combined, these are potent weapons of the Spring Revolution and are extremely effective at defeating the military junta.

International actors must recognize this reality – that the people are building a federal democracy from the ground up and are defeating the military junta, thus dismantling this murderous and corrupt institution. And with recognition must come substantive and meaningful engagement with the actors who are governing significant parts of the country, including the NUG, EROs, and the interim governance bodies as seen in Karenni State and Sagaing Region. As the NUG’s Minister for Health, Zaw Wai Soe, recently penned in an opinion piece, the international community must do much more to support this fight for democracy, including urgent humanitarian support and better coordinated and targeted sanctions that deprive the junta of the finances it needs to fund its atrocities. This is an unprecedented moment in Myanmar’s history, and regardless of outside help, the revolution is winning. However, with more political and material support from the international community, this victory and the founding of a genuine federal democracy can spare more bloodshed that the junta continues to inflict.


[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

Open letter: Seeking confirmation that Myanmar military junta members will not be present at the upcoming ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers (AJSMJ) and ASEAN-G7 Justice Ministers’ Interface

By 411 Civil Society Organizations

အိတ်ဖွင့်ပေးစာ – လာမည့် အာဆီယံ-ဂျပန် တရားရေးဝန်ကြီးများ အထူးအစည်းအဝေး (AJSMJ) နှင့် အာဆီယံ-G7 တရားရေးဝန်ကြီးများ အစည်းအဝေးတွင်    မြန်မာစစ်အုပ်စု၏ ကိုယ်စားလှယ်များအား တက်ရောက်စေမည် မဟုတ်ကြောင်းကို အတည်ပြုချက် တောင်းခံခြင်း။

By 411 Civil Society Organizations

ဆဲဗင်းဂျူလိုင် အရေးတော်ပုံ (၆၁) နှစ်ပြည့် အထိမ်းအမှတ် ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Anti-Junta Mass Movement Committee, General Strike Committee and General Strike Committee of Nationalities

HRC53 – Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar – EU Statement

By European Union

New report names five French banks and a pension fund supporting Myanmar military junta

By Info Birmanie, BankTrack, Justice for Myanmar

[သတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက်] မြန်မာ့နွေဦး၏ လူငယ်တော်လှန်ရေးသမားများ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံဆိုင်ရာအထူးသံတမန်ရုံးအကြီးအကဲနှင့် တွေ့ဆုံပြီး မြန်မာ့အကျပ်အတည်းဖြေရှင်းရာတွင် အာဆီယံဆက်လက်ကျရှုံးနေခြင်းအပေါ် စိုးရိမ်ကြောင်း ထုတ်ဖော်ပြောကြား

By Myanmar Spring’s Young Revolutionaries

Press Statement: Myanmar Spring’s young revolutionaries meet with the Head of the Special Envoy Office on Myanmar and express concern over ASEAN’s continued failure to address Myanmar crisis

By Myanmar Spring’s Young Revolutionaries

Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Oral update to the 53rd HRC session: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

By Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

Interactive dialogue on Myanmar, 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council

By United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights



Investing in Myanmar Military cartel

By Info Birmanie, BankTrack, Justice 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.”