In marking the third anniversary of the 2021 failed military coup, two facts have never been so evident. First, the Myanmar military is – and has always been – the root cause of the decades-long suffering of populations in non-Bamar ethnic borderlands, the current dire humanitarian and economic catastrophe, and the “ever deteriorating human rights crisis”. Second, a new, inclusive, and more united Myanmar is emerging in the country’s vast liberated areas, where bottom-up, democratic representative bodies, together with Ethnic Resistance Organizations’ (EROs’) pre-existing administrations, are governing civilians, including delivering much needed public services. Thus, the international community must step up its support for the people’s resistance movement with the focus on strengthening ethnic and local governance structures, institutions, administrations, and service provision, which represent the only long-term and sustainable solution to Myanmar’s current multidimensional, junta-caused crisis.
The Myanmar military junta has been using the same bloodthirsty strategy that it has historically deployed in non-Bamar ethnic territories in its desperate attempt to defeat the nationwide resistance movement’s multi-front advances. It terrorizes people by targeting civilians, particularly vulnerable minorities, displaced communities and camps, schools, medical facilities, and religious properties. For the Myanmar military, mass arson, village massacres, torture, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence have always been a systematic and fundamental part of its modus operandi. These are not isolated acts of violence. As the junta intensifies its war crimes and crimes against humanity across the country, ethnic and religious minorities continue to be heavily targeted.
Rohingya, for example, are still facing persecution and forced to remain confined to overcrowded prison-like camps in Rakhine State. As reported by Human Rights Watch, “The Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State face systematic abuses that amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty.” Furthermore, the junta’s increasing airstrikes and artillery shelling in Rakhine State have also been directly targeting local communities, including the Rohingya. With their movement being restricted by the junta as part of the military’s ongoing genocidal campaign, the Rohingya are not only more exposed to the junta’s current operations against the Arakan Army in Rakhine State, but also continue to face persecution beyond Rakhine State. On January 24, in the most recent episode, the junta arrested 117 Rohingya, including nine children, in Thanbyuzayat, Mon State.
Nearly one million Rohingya who have been forced to flee by Myanmar military’s genocide campaign in 2017 continue living in crowded and squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh while an estimated 600,000 remain in Rakhine State. To escape inhuman conditions in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, Rohingya populations have been attempting deadly sea crossings in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. On 23 January, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson stated that, “Some 569 Rohingya were reported to have perished or gone missing last year in South-East Asian waters, with nearly 4,500 embarking on deadly sea journeys.” 2023 was the deadliest year for Rohingya’s sea crossings since 2014.
The Myanmar military that has committed genocide against the Rohingya, and crimes against humanity and war crimes against other ethnic minorities in Myanmar is repeatedly applying “the same pattern of slaughter, institutional and structural repression, and persecution through policies, laws, and a range of military campaigns” to repress the past three years of people’s democratic resistance movement nationwide. Despite the brutal junta’s terror campaign, however, the people’s resistance movement is relentlessly gaining ground.
The resistance forces’ fast-growing operational tempo has drastically increased the territory under its control, including 35 towns across Myanmar which have been liberated as of 28 January 2024. Furthermore, most of Myanmar’s rural and peri-urban areas are outside the junta’s control. While the junta is incessantly losing ground and administrative control of the country’s territory, democratic bottom-up representative bodies and local governance institutions have emerged from Chin to Karenni States, from Kachin to Karen States, and from Sagaing to Tanintharyi Regions. Hundreds of thousands of people across Myanmar are currently living in territories governed by EROs, newly established ethnic councils, the National Unity Government’s administrative units and defense forces. Although targeted by junta airstrikes and artillery shelling, the new local governance institutions have set up hospitals, clinics, and schools – mostly run by members of the Civil Disobedience Movement, allocated funding for people’s security, coordinated livelihood support programs, and developed conflict resolution mechanisms.
Over the last three years, the Spring Revolution forces, together with EROs, have walked a long and difficult way. Incredible political and military achievements have been made – for which hundreds of youth have sacrificed their lives. As chanted in A Tribute for Fallen Heroes of Spring Revolution, a Myanmar song published in the aftermath of the junta’s crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations, “We are marching to the long-awaited golden days to an honored triumph of our Spring Revolution.”
In such a critical time, the international community must end all formal and informal engagements with the junta, and pursue all available mechanisms and avenues to actualize justice and accountability, including a referral of the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal, alongside exercising universal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the international community must recognize and directly support the people’s resistance movement, especially the democratic, bottom-up representative bodies, existing EROs’ administrations and local governance institutions, while expanding its assistance to civil society, independent media, and the urgently needed humanitarian aid for most vulnerable populations through locally led cross-border channels.
In the previously mentioned protest song, Myanmar artists, directly addressing junta personnel, shouted “Can you really endure the guilt in your soul?” After three years since the military’s failed coup, the same question must be repeated to foreign arms brokers and companies, such as ND SatCom, a German satellite communications firm, and Grob Aircraft SE, a German aircraft manufacturer, which have been fueling the junta’s campaign of terror against the people of Myanmar, as well as to the wider international community including the UN and ASEAN who have ignored the Myanmar people’s voice for so long. It’s high time to listen to their collective voice: Cut ties with the junta once and for all, and support the people’s pursuit of a genuine federal democratic Myanmar.
 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.
By ALTSEAN-Burma, Asia Justice and Rights, FORUM-ASIA, Initiatives for International Dialogue, KontraS, Progressive Voice
By Centre for Information Resilience
By Chin Civic Movement
By Pa-O National Federal Council
By Pa-O National Liberation Organization
By Myanmar Witness
By Open Doors
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.”