Appeal for Myanmar
Violence is escalating in Myanmar as the Junta tries to bring anti-coup demonstrators to heel. The people of Myanmar have shown relentless courage in the face of authoritarian might before and have shown their mettle once again following the undemocratic coup launched by the military on 1 February.
Many protestors die in street skirmishes with the “Tatmadaw” (As the Junta is called in Myanmar) every day, while celebrities, political dissenters and even social media influencers are summarily arrested by the military. Since February, the world witnessed moving images of civilian resistance despite the junta’s massive censorship.
A Catholic nun pleading on her knees to a group of soldiers not to shoot protesting students and a Buddhist monk holding his begging bowl upside down, signifying that he would not receive alms by the Junta, are some of the iconic photographs that calls for an end to the senseless bloodshed.
The international community has mostly condemned the actions of the Junta but has not taken direct action, instead, it has mostly exercised soft power with many Western nations imposing sanctions and asset freezes on the military leadership. On the other hand, the protestors have attacked many Chinese-owned businesses and factories as China is seen as supportive of the Tatmadaw.
In the meantime, Myanmar’s neighbours, namely India and Thailand, saw a huge influx of refugees fleeing unrest including some Police crossing over to India’s North East.
The most remarkable happenings are the support anti-coup Burmese are getting from minority ethnic groups who reside in the peripheries of Myanmar. The majority Burmese- dominant Central Government have had many conflicts with ethnic groups such as the Kachins, the Karens and the Rohingiyas. When push came to shove, it was the minority groups that provided shelter and support to dissenters. Hardened by years of armed conflict with the Central Government, some separatists are even training young Burmese to fight against the Junta.
The street protestors have employed a multitude of strategies; most taken straight out of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the now famous “three finger salute” from the Thai protestors who were inspired by the Hunger Games franchise. Recently, twitter released its “Milk Tea Alliance” emoji in support for these movements against authoritarian regimes in Asia.
The 1 February coup made news in Sri Lanka following the detention of a group of local fisherman by the Myanmar authorities some weeks back, they have been jailed and attempts by the Sri Lankan Mission to contact them have been futile. Sri Lanka also drew flack after it invited the Junta’s Foreign Minister to the BIMSTEC summit. Although, the Sri Lanka’s Foreign Office invited regional members to a conference out of protocol, many in Myanmar saw it as an endorsement of the military regime.
As blood continues to be spilled in the streets of Yangon and elsewhere in Myanmar with neither the protesting civilians nor the Junta showing any sign of budging, all we can do as Sri Lankans is to stand up for the people of Myanmar, who we have shared deep connections with spanning two thousand years. We as fellow democrats (and being the oldest democracy in Asia) should condemn vulgar power exercised by the Military. As did Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021; so also our Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1962 faced a military coup. Our action should reflect the lessons learnt from our past and guide our action to do the needful for our neighbours.