A Personal View from Inside Myanmar

Written by a staff member in Myanmar:

Military regime in Myanmar lasted from 1962 to 2011 and resumed again in 1st February 2021. The military detained the recently elected leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other civilian officials, including State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, cabinet ministers, the chief ministers of several regions, opposition politicians, writers and activist. To describe in one sentence, started from the 1st February, we all are severely distressed, angry and sorrowful in every single day.

During the last one month, it seems like a hell for us.

We lost hopes at the first week. Then we did all the possible strategies led by some politicians from NLD (who are left from detainment). Banging pots and pans is filled in everywhere of Myanmar to show protest every night since from 2nd February until now. As military also released many prisoners to do crimes at night so that we community have to do local surveillance system in every street. Our nights are sometimes not safe. Internet blackouts from 1 am to 9 am make most of us mentally and psychologically insecure and worried. For me, personally, every morning when I wake up, I feel “I just woke up safely but what bad and awful things happen in other area last night”. This is because during such a blackout time at night, military arrest some people who are doing CDM (civil disobedience movement) and who are politicians.

Military did brutal crackdown all over the country significantly started from 27th February. They have already done such a lethal attack since last couple of weeks. More than 50 people died, 1,000 people injured, and 1522 people have been arrested as of March 5. Young protesters killed and died due to gun shot (some of them got open head shot). Even some people who are just passing by killed due to gun shot. The military also used tear gas and grenades to disperse the peaceful protesters. We feel physically, mentally and emotionally distressed during such days and nights as the military does everything to terrorize the population. Cities are like battlefield. I, personally, as a mother, felt so much guilt to my living (feeling of survivor’s guilt) while these young protestors died.

We are worried for protestors including us because military did all inhumane things. We are worried for our leaders who are unhealthy and old. We are worried for our nation and future generations. As I grew up during the era of military regime, I know how bad it was and how our nation is left behind comparing with other neighboring countries. Our nation is just on the right track for development but now its damaged by them. We suffered so much during last year from COVID 19. Now we had lights of hopes for vaccine and at the same time, cases are decreasing. But all of this is ruined.

Now, “3 C’s” approach is being used in Myanmar to get our justice back; 1. Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM); 2. Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH – 300 elected legislators who formed a committee to conduct parliamentary affairs after coup); and 3. Continuous Protest.

But we have seen the collective leadership of our civilians. During last month, we have no government except CRPH. We don’t have police and army to protect us. We protect each other, donate and taking care of each other regardless of religion, race and status. Generations X, Y, Z are trying together. I’ve seen it as strength and gain we received during such a critical time and I’m so much appreciated it.

We Do Believe…   “Democracy will prevail. Justice will prevail.”

Police Directing Guns at Apartments
City's Life at Night with Military Vehicles
Buddhist Nun Asking Police to not Attack Peaceful Protestors

Executive Director’s Note:

Please keep our staff and the people of Myanmar on your mind and in your heart each day.  Even a post-it note on your bathroom mirror can be a way of remembering their struggle, and it will prompt you to reflect on how you can be in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters there.

WILL OUR DEVELOPMENT WORK CONTINUE?  I am pleased to report that much of our work is resuming this week because the villages where we operate are removed from the protests and violence taking place in the larger cities. We work in isolated and remote villages, and the people there are often disengaged from national politics.  Due to their extreme poverty, they are focused on daily survival, i.e., securing the basic necessities for their families.  Our incredible staff in Myanmar has made adaptations to allow them to resume work in most of our partner villages.

STAFF SAFETY?  You might be wondering if our staff is safe.  Thus far, they have been safe.  At the moment, the only significant risk is to staff members who might be participating in the CDM in Yangon.  While we are absolutely supportive of their desire to protest, we are also encouraging them to take every precaution they can for their personal safety.

WHAT IS THE COVID-19 VACCINE SITUATION THERE?  I can say with certainty that the coup has made the pandemic situation much worse.  One-and-half million vaccines arrived shortly before the coup and were distributed to only 100k health care workers and medical staff. Conflicting news reports state that a plane loaded with vaccines from India was not allowed to unload because the government is pivoting toward an alignment with China and away from democratic countries like India.

– WG

Wade Griffith, Executive Director
e: wade@shantafoundation.org
m:  205-886-8144