When Myanmar’s military tried to stage a coup d’etat on the first day of February, it probably expected it to be easy. After all, it never fully relaxed its grip on the levers of power held for five decades prior to allowing partial civilian rule.
But what it has unleashed in the streets, a fierce and wide opposition to its rule that bullets have been unable to put down, is nothing short of a revolution to rid the the nation of the military’s hold on governance and daily life, once and for all.
While the world has been shocked by images of the brutal crackdown by security forces on what’s now called the Spring Revolution, much more is going on to secure victory.
Before shrugging off Myanmar’s military takeover as fait accompli, here’s a rundown of what’s going on to send the generals back to the barracks.
Civil Disobedience Movement
The so-called “CDM” movement has seen civil servants around the country on strike to deny the military the apparatus of administration. Government hospitals and school are closed, no trains are running, government banks and tax offices are closed, and local administration offices are not functional. These public servants are risking not only their jobs, but the pensions and housing that comes along with them. Just Monday, a new 10-day nationwide strike was announced for all private companies to support the movement.
Defund the junta
Boycott of companies owned by the military or their families and associates
People are responding to boycott campaigns targeting military-owned or -aligned companies such as Myanmar beer, Mytel telecom and more. There’s even an app for it, WayWayNay (iOS/Android), which is kept updated with lists to inform people of which companies to avoid. The organisation Justice for Myanmar, an anonymous group of anti-military activists around since before the coup, has been naming names and shining light on how the military is raiding public agencies for money. This week, it published more details including company ownership data to support calls for international sanctions. These so-called Panama papers of Myanmar include financial details and the evidence of corruptions. www.justiceformyanmar.org.
The military’s plans for a “business as usual” approach were exposed as incompetent after being roundly thwarted by the people. The calls for banks to close were immediately answered by bank staff, meaning the military can’t do any business and will eventually have problems paying the personnel it relies on to hold power. Military pressure for banks to open has been countered by the public’s threat to do a run on the banks and withdraw all their savings at any bank that reopens. The private sector and people are so far willing to wait it out.
Dox the Insurrectionists
A very effective social-shaming campaign has been used to put pressure on the armed forces, from top to bottom. When a young demonstrator Mya Thwe Thwe Khine, 20, was killed in Naypyidaw’s Thapyaygone on February 9, her shooter was quickly found on social media. Soon, he was doxxed with all details including name, address and family members shared on Facebook. The sons and daughters of generals studying or working anonymously overseas or in Myanmar have been made public as well. These efforts, documented online at SocialPunishment.com, are meant to scare the police and military into thinking twice before committing crimes against their own people, and socially sanction the children of top commanders into objecting to what their parents are doing.
Present the alternative
Warmest welcome to our Acting Vice President, U Mahn Win Khaing Than, appointed by our elected legitimate government body, CRPH. We, the people of Myanmar stand with you.
Democracy must prevail.🎉🎉 #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #WhatsHappeningInMaynmar pic.twitter.com/2cy5uprZVE
— Save Myanmar🇲🇲 (@NopYer) March 9, 2021
Lawmakers duly elected in the November election (the coup coming soon after the military’s embarrassing defeat) have set-up a provisional government called the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Lower House), or CRPH, with its own ministers and local ward office committees as the nation’s legitimate legal administration. The incumbent Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House), Mahn Win Khaing Than, was appointed acting vice president on Tuesday.
Of those who have turned their backs on the military, none has been so dramatic as that of U.N. envoy Kyaw Moe Tun. Late last month, he addressed the General Assembly in New York to say he supported the CRPH. Though he was fired by the military the next day, his appointed successor then resigned and publicly announced support for the CRPH as well. That helped spark resistance at Myanmar’s embassies in the United States and elsewhere, where staff have joined the CDM movement.
Singapore’s foreign minister on Friday said it was a “shame” for the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is called, to spill its own people’s blood. Though it may sound mild, that was a strong rebuke in Southeast Asia, where ASEAN policy is generally to avoid anything resembling criticism of members’ “internal affairs.” Still, attempts to deny the junta legitimacy were dealt a setback when Thailand and Indonesia gave it a boost by meeting with its rep in Bangkok.
The CRPH has categorized the military and the police as “terrorist organizations” paving the way for future prosecution in the international court and, they hope, a weapons embargo of the military, freezing coup leaders out of finance, and other legal consequences. On Tuesday, it filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court that accuses coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his junta of treason.
Build alliances at home …
The Tatmadaw wasn’t without enemies before it seized power. Now, some of the armed militias have spoken out against the coup and are offering armed protection to the demonstrators, especially in Kayin and Kayah states. Leaders of Shan, Karen and other ethnic armed groups have expressed support for the CRPH’s goals, including the repeal of the military-sponsored 2008 constitution in favor of a new, federalist version.
… and abroad
Support for the people and opposition to the brutality have poured in worldwide on social media, perhaps the most from Myanmar’s neighbors also fighting repression and authoritarianism. Pro-democracy Burmese have been added to the ranks of the #MilkTeaAlliance that emerged last year between Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong in the wake of the latter’s suppression by Beijing.
Myanmar’s people are donating big amounts to support people who have lost their jobs and incomes by participating in the resistance movement by giving money to organizations that have emerged such as CRPH – CDM Supporting Team and We Support Heroes.
Those leading the charge hope that if the people can win the Spring Revolution, better things will come such as a fully elected government (without seating dictated by the military) and, more broadly, a society better aware of its power to affect positive change.