Demonstrations and strikes confront Burmese military

Submitted by AWL on 9 February, 2021 - 7:55 Author: Sacha Ismail
Garment workers in Myanmar protest for democracy

Demonstrations and strikes have spread across Myanmar to overturn the military military coup which began on 1 February.

Events are developing fast as we prepare to go to press. For more information and updates, see the website Frontline Myanmar and these Twitter accounts: and (the former in particular for worker-focused reports, with many photos and videos of strikers).

The military regime has responded with demands to disperse, arrests, snatching people off the streets, water cannons and more extreme violence. At least three people have died after incidents including shootings and a car driving into protesters.

Reports indicate demonstrations in many parts of the country, and from a wide range of communities and ethnic groups, even those who will be frustrated with the overthrown National League for Democracy government’s refusal to challenge the military’s Bamar- (Myanmar’s largest ethnic group) and Buddhist-chauvinist oppression of minorities.

It also seems that striking workers are playing an important role in the mobilisation, with garment workers, health workers and teachers prominent. It looks as if workers have taken the lead in mobilising against the coup while the NLD temporised. The role of unionised garment workers, mainly young women, looks particularly important, with workplace actions as well as turnout on the streets.

Under the slogans of “Civil Disobedience Movement” and “Stay at Home Movement” – evidently not meaning to actually stay at home! – strikes seem to be spreading around the country.

There have also been specific contingents of LGBT people on some demonstrations.

Political background

Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD won a huge majority in the 2015 election, and an even bigger one last November. The army-front party USDP was utterly crushed both times. In reality, the military never gave up much power.

Since 2011 the regime, in power for decades, has loosened up in some respects. A semi-legal trade union movement has emerged, with evidently very important consequences. (See this interview with a Burmese trade unionist in Jacobin.)

The NLD is a capitalist liberal party, but its leadership at least is also worse than that.

After the first relatively free elections and NLD victory in 2015, the military escalated persecution of the mainly-Muslim Rohingya people in Rakhine state, cooperating with extreme-right Buddhist chauvinists to unleash a wave of extrajudicial killings, rapes, arson and other brutality. Many thousands were killed, most of the Rohingya are now outside Myanmar, and those who remained are held in an apartheid style-system.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her allies not only failed to speak out for the Rohingya, but denied the genocide was taking place and repeated the military’s falsehoods about Islamist terrorism and illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

Ko Ni was a prominent NLD member who had been an adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi and to the party. A secular Muslim of mixed Indian-Burmese and Muslim-Buddhist descent, he opposed the oppression of the Rohingya, promoted inter-community dialogue and advocated removal of the military’s role in Myanmar’s constitution. When he was assassinated by plotters linked to the regime in 2017, thousands of all backgrounds attended his funeral. Aung San Suu Kyi did not attend or send his family her condolences.

More garment workers protest

A Rohingya girl protests

More garment workers

LGBT people join the protests

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