Myanmar: rebels group fighting back against the army following the coup in February

Mass protests broke out in Myanmar with rebel groups fighting back against the military, with
eight deaths reported after Sunday’s protest as the security forces opened fire on citizens.
Thousands of people joined the protest which calls for “the Global Myanmar Spring Revolution”,
in which the organiser stated the aim was to “shake the world with the voice of Myanmar
people’s unity”. The series of protests and demonstrations began three months ago after a coup
that spiralled the country into a political crisis.

Myanmar, or also known as Burma, is located in SouthEast Asia with an estimated population of
54 million people. The country is adjacent to Thailand and Bangladesh and its main language is
Burmese. The country was a British colony until 1948 and was ruled by oppressive military
forces from 1962 to 2011. The country began to see gradual liberalisation, catalysed by the
introduction of an openly contested election by Aung San Suu Kyi in 2015, who was a prominent
veteran opposition leader. Suu Kyi is the daughter of Myanmar’s independent hero, General
Aung San, who is considered the “father of modern Myanmar”. She was awarded a Nobel
Peace Prize as titled as an “outstanding example of the power of the powerless” in 1991. She
formed the National League for Democracy in 1988 and has since then become the country’s
main civilian party after a landslide victory in 2015.

The anti-coup movement started on February 1st, following the ouster of the elected
government led by Suu Kyi and her detainment by the military force. Tension has remained high
with the declaration of a year-long emergency state by the military, triggering multiple
disobedience movements of strikes and protests. Armoured vehicles are seen around the city at
key governmental buildings in the capital city Yangon with internet connection cut off by the
military. The military has imposed restrictions such as curfews on all households and banning
gatherings of more than five people in its two biggest cities – Yangon and Mandalay.

Major cities such as Vancouver, Taipei and London held rallies in support of the anti-coup
movement, in which exiled Hong Kong pro-democracy politician Nathan Law voiced out the
importance of unity to the protesters. He stated that “we need to mobilise our global system to
punish dictators and stop them from killing the people” and hope to improve domestic resilience
against extreme authoritarianism. Major organisations have raised their concerns on the
country’s political state, with the United Nation Security Council publicly condemning the
government’s response and demanding the release of all detainees. Pope Francis also prayed
that the country can “walk the path of meeting, reconciliation and peace” during his Sunday
mass in St Peter’s Square.

With the multiple uncertainties in this political crisis, many have chosen to flee to Thailand,
seeking shelter and asylum. The series of strikes and protests have also resulted in a significant
impact on the country’s economy, with a prediction of 25 million people entering poverty.

With protests still taking place since February, it is uncertain where the situation will lead. But one
thing is for certain, the people’s unity will not be threatened by the military’s accelerating use of
lethal forces.

Image Credit: Gayatri Malhotra via UnSplash

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