Civil Disobedience Grows Against Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship


Getty Images

YANGON, MYANMAR – FEBRUARY 13: Protesters hold placards and shout slogans near the City Hall on February 13, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. Myanmar declared martial law in parts of the country, including its two largest cities, as protests continued to draw people to the streets after the country’s military junta staged a coup against the elected National League For Democracy (NLD) government and detained de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The U.S. government imposed sanctions and froze the U.S. assets of several of the coup’s leaders and their families. (Photo by Hkun Lat/Getty Images)

Lilian Chong, Staff Writer

In a nation where fear and civil disobedience persist day and night, thousands of protestors across Myanmar marched in rallies since the beginning of February in hopes for democracy to rise again. Since the detainment of civilian leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) on Feb. 1, demonstrations against the military coup have erupted across the country as protestors sang protest anthems and held three fingers, signifying peace. Under the military’s dictatorship, many Myanmar citizens live under the constant fear that days ahead, nightmarish moments await them. 

Dozens of years ago, the country’s long period of economic stagnation led citizens to advocate for a newer government system. The 1988 coup d’état, a student-led uprising, reminded many former protestors of the dark, traumatizing past. It took bloodshed and mass incarceration to cease the long-standing dictatorship and finally introduce a pro-democratic leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. At the time, phones and internet lines were nonexistent, and the only media source was newspapers. For a long time, the world had turned a blind eye to Myanmar’s suffering democracy. 

In the new technological era, the escape from social media and the internet is merely impossible. Today, Myanmar citizens enter the crowded streets with phones and cameras ready in their hands. Throughout the demonstrations, protestors stream live videos of marchers singing anthems and citizens screaming in megaphones to bring back democracy. Within the two-weeks of the abrupt military coup, military officials intermittently disrupted mobile internet and broadband services to undermine the protests. The military had also manipulated the press by spreading false words of Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders.   

Despite the military’s attempts in stifling the voice of Myanmar, citizens practiced other forms of civil disobedience, such as banging pots to drive out evil spirits, honking car horns to signal opposition to the military government, and wearing red and pink ribbons to symbolize the NLD party.

As weeks progress and jobs become abandoned, violence and threats heighten between law enforcement and protestors. In Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital city, demonstrators march and protest in fear of facing violence and lethal threats, such as water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, from law enforcement. On Feb. 9, one of the Naypyidaw police shot a woman in the back of her head. She was turning away from the water cannons spraying her direction when the police fired at her. A man was also fatally wounded in the chest at one of the walkouts. 

The United Nations (UN) has also warned the Myanmar military to refrain from using violent force against protestors. Since the Rohingya refugee crisis in 2017, the UN has kept a wary eye on the military and its potential threats to Myanmar citizens. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres “calls on Myanmar’s military and police to ensure the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals. Reports of continued violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel are unacceptable,” said UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq in a press hearing

Some UN leaders also expressed concern over the military’s mistreatment of human rights and demanded the civilian government returns to power. 

“The Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw, Min Aung Hlaing, and all the current leadership must be replaced, and a complete restructuring must be undertaken to place the Tatmadaw under full civilian control. Myanmar’s democratic transition depends on it,” urged UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif.

Each day, the nation wakes and sleeps with the sound of protestors resisting the military’s dictatorship. Despite the military generals stripping away every last right of the Myanmar people, the UN reiterates that the “world is watching.”

“It’s as if the generals have declared war on the people of Myanmar: late night raids; mounting arrests; more rights stripped away; another Internet shutdown; military convoys entering communities. These are signs of desperation. Attention generals: You WILL be held accountable,” tweeted UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews in a statement on human rights in Myanmar. 


Photo courtesy of NPR.COM