Aid for the People, by the People

November 20th, 2023  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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“The time is now to cut ties with the junta and provide much needed aid directly to the people through the people.”

The Myanmar people’s democratic resistance movement has gained significant ground against the military junta over recent weeks. In response and out of desperation, the junta has launched retaliatory airstrikes against civilians, exacerbating the already-dire humanitarian crisis of its own making. Alongside the multi-front offensives weakening the junta, the international community must now broaden its focus to urgently address the worsening, junta-caused humanitarian crisis. To do so, the international community must immediately stop engaging with the junta and instead align with the Spring Revolution, particularly by increasing support for locally led humanitarian responders through cross-border channels.

The Spring Revolution arose as the Myanmar people’s collective rejection of the military’s illegal coup attempt on 1 February 2021. The junta’s answer to this widespread people-led resistance movement has been nothing short of merciless and intentional violence – from murdering peaceful protesters to razing entire villages and attacking camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The military’s brutality against civilians is nothing new. With its ruthless violence spanning decades, the military is undeniably the root cause of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

In recent weeks, the junta’s retaliatory airstrikes on civilians have spread across the country – from northern and southern Shan State to Sagaing Region, Karenni State, and beyond. The junta’s aerial attacks on civilians clearly show its flagrant disregard for the lives of Myanmar people, as well as for international humanitarian law.

In early November, following targeted attacks by resistance forces on junta outposts in Kawlin Township, Sagaing Region, the junta responded with multiple airstrikes on civilian areas, forcing approximately 50,000 people in the city of Kawlin to flee. Some reports indicate double that number counting those displaced from nearby villages. Meanwhile, the junta has blocked routes to Kawlin, causing IDPs to face shortages of food, medicine, and fuel. Similarly, further south in Sagaing’s Tabayin Township, after an attack on a junta police station, the junta also launched retaliatory airstrikes targeting civilians, displacing more than 30,000 people who now face food shortages. In addition, the junta cut off electricity and telecommunications in these areas, further worsening conditions for civilians in urgent need of assistance.

Likewise, in Loikaw, Karenni State, the junta conducted indiscriminate, retaliatory airstrikes and shelling, resulting in civilian casualties and increased devastation. The junta also barred volunteer rescue efforts in the area, trapping civilians and forcing further displacement.

Tens of thousands of IDPs in Shan State and Mandalay Region also continue to face dire humanitarian conditions, including skyrocketing commodity prices, food insecurity, and power outages. Local groups providing aid estimate that at least 80,000 people have been displaced across six townships in northern Shan State. Now sheltering in local monasteries, many IDPs remain unable to receive supplies and medical treatment, as humanitarian responses are hindered by blocked roads and the known risk of junta violence against civilians delivering aid.

The junta’s assaults on civilians – alongside its martial law declarations – put its ultimate desperation on full display. By indiscriminately attacking whomever possible, the junta is exacerbating Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis as a form of collective punishment, intending to instill fear in the people for denying the military any chance to rule the country.

Nevertheless, civil society organizations (CSOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) remain steadfast on the frontlines, responding to urgent humanitarian needs in the wake of the junta’s indiscriminate violence. These CSOs and CBOs work tirelessly to deliver aid through trusted local networks and with decades of experience working among the communities in need. For example, the Ta’ang Women’s Organization is providing food, blankets, medicine, and other supplies to IDPs now sheltering in northern Shan State. Similarly, in Karenni State, CSOs and CBOs are partnering with the Interim Executive Council of Karenni State to provide food, shelter, and medicine; evacuate people; and designate safe areas.

However, on 9 November, in an insult to CSOs’ and CBOs’ unwavering efforts, officials from two United Nations agencies – the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – met with the junta to discuss humanitarian assistance. These engagements only stoke the junta’s violence against civilians and fail to increase access to aid for those displaced by its atrocities.

Going forward, the people will continue to act collectively towards reclaiming Myanmar and building an inclusive, peaceful federal democracy. In the wake of junta retaliation against civilians for these efforts, the international community must fulfil its collective responsibility and support the people of Myanmar through robust emergency humanitarian assistance efforts, specifically by directly supporting local CSOs and CBOs through cross-border channels to get lifesaving aid to the people in the direst need.

Along these lines, the international community must immediately cease all engagements with the junta and junta-linked entities regarding humanitarian aid, as these only feed into the junta’s weaponization of aid for its own murderous agenda. The international community must also unequivocally reject the junta’s propaganda rooted in its savior complex – which blatantly attempts to obfuscate the crisis it created and the international crimes it continues to commit.

As the failing junta desperately intensifies its collective punishment against civilians, causing further immense human suffering, the international community must align with the people’s earnest pursuit of an inclusive federal democratic Myanmar and save lives. The time is now to cut ties with the junta and provide much needed aid directly to the people through the people.


[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

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မြန်မာ စစ်ခေါင်းဆောင်များနှင့် ၎င်းတို့၏ ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး အယောင်ပြ ကြိုးပမ်းမှုအား အသိအမှတ်ပြုမှု မပေးရန် ဖင်လန်နှင့် ဆွစ်ဇာလန်တို့ကို တောင်းဆိုခြင်း

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In the Dark – The crime of enforced disappearance and its impacts on the rural communities of Southeast Burma since the 2021 coup

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Summary of SAC human rights violations in Karenni State and Pekhon Township (Oct 23 – Nov 5, 2023)

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Myanmar Humanitarian Update No. 34 | 10 November 2023

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Myanmar: Escalation of clashes in northern Shan and the Northwest Flash Update #3 (As of 9 November 2023)

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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.”