Commentary: Myanmar protesters are not giving up so easily

CARBONDALE, Illinois: Two months after Myanmar’s coup, the nation’s civil disobedience motion is awe-inspiring in its resilience in opposition to vicious army crackdowns.

According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as of Mar 28, 459 folks have been killed and a couple of,559 arrested, charged or sentenced.

Despite this heavy price, the civil disobedience motion’s effectiveness is unprecedented. But its unity is not solely because of the present disaster, widespread hatred for the Myanmar army  or the appearance of digital applied sciences.

The success of at this time’s civil disobedience motion comes from many years of behind-the-scenes activism to construct a multi-ethnic civil society and an impartial media below army rule – effectively earlier than the democratisation course of started simply over a decade in the past.

READ: Commentary: Can Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement overturn the coup?

READ: Commentary: Myanmar learnt the wrong lessons from Indonesia’s political transition

The experience and infrastructure constructed by media veterans protecting earlier crackdowns, together with ethnic nationality media and the forging of worldwide alliances, is the bottom upon which the present circulate of correct information and evaluation relies upon.

This work is never acknowledged in worldwide media accounts of the present scenario, which regularly give attention to the latest applied sciences.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are instrumental in permitting the folks of Myanmar to coordinate and talk with one another and the skin world.

Digital applied sciences and social media present international journalists instant entry to correct information and extra nuanced updates from Myanmar analysts than they themselves would have the ability to make.


Social media websites are key weapons in Myanmar’s present wrestle, facilitating methods such because the Social Punishment marketing campaign that shames and ostracises relations and supporters of the Tatmadaw.


Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing evaluations the troops throughout a military parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo)

Facebook responded to the disaster with a ban on all military-linked accounts. But even Facebook’s response is the results of years of labor by native civil society organisations to push the corporate to handle the damaging unfold of misinformation.

This was particularly acute throughout the assaults on the nation’s Muslim Rohingyas.

Massive protests in 1988 and the crackdown that adopted brought about hundreds of dissident college students to flee to the nation’s border areas, the place exile media had been first established.

While the motion was by no means solely ethnic majority Burman in its make-up, this was the primary time many Burman college students met ethnic “insurgents”.

READ: More Myanmar violence reported as activists seek help from ethnic groups

Many ethnic minority peoples within the border areas had additionally by no means earlier than met Burmans who had been not troopers they wanted to worry. Key alliances had been cast and strengthened over the following many years.

Echoes of this similar realisation have emerged within the 2021 post-coup interval. Rohingya and different ethnic nationality teams rapidly joined protests in opposition to the coup, regardless of an extended wrestle for recognition by the National League for Democracy (NLD) for their very own struggling by the hands of the Tatmadaw.

On social media, younger protesters started to recognise and publicly apologise for his or her earlier lack of empathy for the struggling of those minority teams. These sentiments have gone viral. The divide-and-rule technique utilized in 1988 is at this time being challenged on a much wider scale.

READ: Commentary: Did the Rohingya crisis snuff out foreign direct investments in Myanmar?


When Myanmar’s much-celebrated political opening started in 2011, its exiled media moved cautiously to return. But these media and impartial media contained in the nation had already been pushing for many years for higher freedom of expression.

That historic information is enjoying an important position within the present battle, as older generations share their experiences of earlier crackdowns, repressive rule and imprisonment. The techniques utilized by at this time’s protesters and dissident hackers are direct descendants of the post-1988 underground communication system.

FILE PHOTO: Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar's commander-in-chief, shakes hands with Na

FILE PHOTO: Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, shakes fingers with National League for Democracy (NLD) occasion chief Aung San Suu Kyi earlier than their assembly in Hlaing’s workplace at Naypyitaw December 2, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo/File Photo

Media and civil society teams led by 1988 era leaders of all ethnicities had been among the many first to publicly increase considerations in regards to the NLD’s governing methods. Many had been bitterly disenchanted and angered that crackdowns on media and different teams had been worse below the NLD than below its predecessor, the military-backed Thein Sein authorities.

Just a few expressed outrage on the NLD’s silence over the army’s inhumane remedy of the Rohingya, and over-simplified protection of the problem by worldwide journalists.


While the coup does present a transparent widespread enemy within the Tatmadaw, the insights gained previous to this tumultuous interval will undoubtedly have an effect past the present disaster.

Groups comparable to Progressive Voice, Athan, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Action Committee for Democracy Development and Generation Wave will proceed this critique whatever the consequence of the present disaster.

READ: Commentary: Myanmar protesters play cat and mouse as military shuts down online platforms

Gen Z activists seem probably the most energetic and resilient within the face of direct assaults, however they are drawing from and supported by an extended historical past of networking and capacity-building that makes this motion for democratisation a game-changer.

The civil disobedience motion’s multi-ethnic and worldwide alliances are additionally merging with transnational protest actions. Young activists from Myanmar, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and different Asian international locations, dubbed the Milk Tea Alliance, are posing a direct problem to governments.

READ: Commentary: The Milk Tea Alliance sweeping through Thailand is a force to be reckoned with

Still, that is not a Twitter or Facebook revolution. This is what actions appear like within the digital age, constructed upon a historic basis of wrestle. This might not be your mother or father’s revolution, however it’s an extension of it, as some kids of 1988 era activists clarify.

This collective historic knowledge is the muse of Myanmar’s resilient civil disobedience motion at this time. Continued help for civil society, together with impartial media, is the perfect hope for change.

Lisa Brooten is Associate Professor of Radio, Television and Digital Media at Southern Illinois University, co-editor of Myanmar Media In Transition: Legacies, Challenges And Change (ISEAS, 2019) and a 2021 Fulbright ASEAN Research Fellow. This commentary first appeared on East Asia Forum.


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