The 2021 Myanmar Coup Protests explained (as of March)
If you use Instagram or Twitter, chances are that you have seen people posting about the military coup that is still happening in Myanmar. But what exactly is going on and how did this even happen in the first place?
In this article, I have collated a brief timeline of events, as well as Singapore’s role in this entire ordeal. And by the end of the article, you will know of various avenues through which you can support our friends in Myanmar.
Ne Win led a military coup, ousting U Nu. He nationalised the economy, forming a single-party state with the Socialist Programme Party as the sole political party, and banning independent newspapers
Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) wins landslide victory in the general election, but the result is ignored by the military.
8th November 2020:
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the general elections with more than 80% of the votes.
1st February 2021:
Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, launched a military coup, seizing control of Myanmar and declaring a year-long state of emergency.
They justified this by citing “election fraud”, putting Ms Suu Kyi under house arrest, alongside other elected officials from NLD.
Catherine Renshaw, a professor whose research focuses on human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia, writes that fear of prosecution for crimes against humanity (e.g. the Rohingya crisis) is a key factor in this coup.
So, was the alleged voter fraud the reason behind the coup?
Analysts believe that the coup was driven by power and the personal ambition of an army chief who felt he was losing control and respect, putting “his personal ambition ahead of the good of the military and the good of the country”.
While Myanmar is now under the junta’s dictatorship, under Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Ms Suu Kyi called on the public to protest against the military coup.
2nd February 2021:
The three-finger salute has been widely adopted as a protest symbol
The nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) officially starts as an online campaign. Medical professionals were the first to join the CDM on 3rd February 2021.
Despite the military’s aggressive approach in trying to get them to return to work, they have continued on in their participation in the demonstrations.
The CDM Facebook group has garnered more than 100,000 followers, with close to 40 hospitals saying they will refuse to work.
5th February 2021:
The Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) issued a directive to block the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram as people redirected their efforts onto these platforms.
9th February 2021
In the capital Naypyitaw, the Myanmar police started using excessive and lethal force against the protestors. At the age of 19, Mya Thwe Thwe Khine was the first civilian shot and killed by the military despite not engaging in or threatening violent acts. (Rest in power, queen.)
15th February 2021:
Myanmar experiences a ‘near-total Internet shutdown’ as the military government attempts to quell the growing civil disobedience.
22nd February 2021:
The “22222” or “Five Twos” strike against Myanmar’s military junta saw millions of protestors in various cities across Myanmar.
With the closing of businesses and flooding of the streets, organisers said this was the biggest day of defiance since the coup.
This name may ring a bell – more than 30 years ago, the 8888 Uprising in Myanmar was also a significant nationwide pro-democracy movement.
The Tatmadaw was also opening fire on protestors then and Ms Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest.
28th February 2021:
“Milk Tea Alliance” activists across Asia held rallies to support the protestors in Myanmar. Around 200 people in Taipei and dozens in Bangkok, Melbourne and Hong Kong took to the streets, while activists in Indonesia and Malaysia held online protests.
3rd March 2021:
This was the “bloodiest day” since the coup, with at least 38 people killed in Myanmar. These included two boys aged 14 and 17, and a woman aged 19. The military continued to violently suppress the protests despite international condemnation. Witness accounts state that they were opening fire with rubber and live bullets.
13th March 2021:
Activists called for more anti-coup protests on the death anniversary of a student whose killing in 1988 sparked an uprising against the military government. At least six protestors were killed in a police firing in Myanmar overnight.
15th March 2021:
Dr SaSa, appointed as Myanmar representative for the United Nations (UN) was charged with high treason and issued a warrant for:
- Accepting the UN post,
- Encouraging embassy staff members to join the CDM,
- Encouraging international communities to impose sanctions on Myanmar,
- Requesting Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and
- Holding discussions with ethnic armed organisations (EAOs).
23rd March 2021:
Khin Myo Chit, a seven-year-old, was shot and hit by the police while she ran towards her father during a raid on their home in Mandalay.
Rights group Save the Children says more than 20 children are among dozens of people who have been killed.
26th March 2021:
The military state media (MRTV) openly threatened the public not to cause civil unrest, stating that soldiers will not hesitate to shoot the younger generations in the head or the back.
27th March 2021:
CNN labelled Armed Forces Day as the “Day of Shame” for the military after killing at least 114 civilians across 40 towns.
At least 4 children were killed, while tanks and jet planes paraded Naypyidaw as a celebration to glorify the army and implicitly honor their acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
At this point of writing, the protests and military brutality are ongoing in Myanmar.
What’s Singapore’s role in this?
Myanmar may be about 2,429KM away from Singapore, but our nation still has a stake in its current political situation.
Singapore took over China as Myanmar’s top foreign investor in 2019, and with Singapore-based businesses contributing significantly to Myanmar and its powerful military.
As such, Singapore has a strong influence due to their business relations with the Burmese military.
Furthermore, with stringent legislation limiting public demonstrations, the Burmese community in Singapore has also expressed their helplessness towards their situation back home.
In a video interview, a Burmese person expressed, “We are scared to protest in Singapore because the Singapore government will catch us and send us back to Myanmar, so we cannot work here, we will have no salary, and nothing when we go back.”.
Singapore’s response to the Myanmar coup
In response to Parliamentary and Supplementary questions on the situation in Myanmar, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan said, “It is crucial we maintain the separation between politics and business, and let businesses make commercial and investment decisions on their own merits.”.
This sentiment raises concerns towards the government’s sincerity in their expressed “grave concern” over the crisis in Myanmar.
Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, commented, “Singapore’s leaders need to take a good, hard look at the situation in Myanmar and decide if short-term gains from despots are worth the long-term damage their country will face if it’s seen to be complying with dictators and military regimes.”
How can I help?
This link includes key and comprehensive resources for supporting the fight for justice in Myanmar. Taking reference to this source, this is a list of things you can do to help:
1.) Contribute financially
With the people of Myanmar putting their lives on the line to fight for democracy in their country, many have lost their source of income to access basic necessities like food and housing.
2.) Draw greater attention
3.) Demand action
While ground-up work is important, it is not enough. It is all the more crucial that we reach out to authorities to support the people of Myanmar.
Such can be done through the signing of petitions, which are also listed in this consolidated resource list. Please also add your signature to the open letter requesting the UN to dispatch a monitoring and intervention mission to Myanmar immediately.
“ONE VISION, ONE IDENTITY, ONE COMMUNITY”
This is the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) motto.
Democracy is built on the fundament of human right. With the military suppression and violence that our friends in Myanmar are facing, their retaliation against the coup is a fight for the bare minimum, a movement for democracy.
Their struggle should not be and is not in isolation from the rest of the world – our globalization and interconnectedness simply do not allow for that.
This is not a request, but demand for action: Please support our friends in Myanmar as best as you can.
Beyond being a part of one ASEAN community, we are one human race – it is our duty to amplify their voices, to offer our support, to redistribute our privilege.