Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), a popular strike movement that at its peak crippled the administrative apparatus of the military regime, has lost more than a third of its active members in the crackdown by the junta, the organizers and the government of the country. shadow government said on Tuesday.
Formed by doctors in Mandalay a day after the February 1, 2021 coup, the CDM once had more than 360,000 members who chose to quit their jobs in the state and take part in peaceful protests against the junta or other opposition activities as part of a bid to loosen the regime’s grip on power. The MDP captivated the international community for its effectiveness in the face of the junta’s violent crackdown and was even nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
But Kyaw Zaw, a spokesman for the office of the chairman of the National Unity Shadow Government (NUG), told RFA’s Myanmar service that the number of active members of the MDP had dropped significantly since the junta began to smash them. target with a campaign of threats, arrests and other forms of harassment.
“Members of the CDM have been arrested. They endured all kinds of threats, and even torture in some cases. Additionally, when CDM personnel evade arrest, authorities detain their family members,” he said.
“Many CDM members felt so insecure that they had to leave the movement.”
Kyaw Zaw said the NUG estimates that there are currently around 200,000 state employees still in the MDP, although “we don’t know exactly how many have left the movement.”
The shadow government’s assessment suggests that the MDP has lost over 150,000, or just over 40%, of its peak membership.
CDM sources told RFA that the junta was also trying to alienate CDM members from the movement by making offers that included reinstatement in their old jobs and guarantees that they would not be sent to prison. But they said those who refuse are often arrested on what they call “false charges” or may have difficulty earning a living due to policies such as a ban on hiring CDMs in the private sector.
Hein Thiha, a senior CDM teacher from the Magway region, said some of his colleagues left the movement after receiving threats.
“Your ability to participate may be different depending on whether you are based in an area with a strong CDM or a weak CDM,” he said. “Where the CDM is strong, it is easier to operate. But it is very difficult where the CDM is weak. Some people reluctantly withdrew from the CDM because of these pressures.
Hein Thiha said that like many CDM employees, he has been struggling to make ends meet as a farmer since February 2021, without a regular source of income.
Sit Min Naing, an MDP doctor, told RFA that public support for the movement appears to have shifted towards armed opposition since the NUG declared war on the junta in September and ordered allied paramilitary groups to the People’s Defense Force (PDF) across the country to attack military targets.
“That support has gotten stronger and stronger, and now they seem to have forgotten about CDMs,” he said.
In its first annual report released on April 16, the NUG said it had provided 229 million kyats ($190,000) in financial support to CDM staff. But NUG officials told a press conference accompanying the release of the report that they had redirected their financial support to military spending and acknowledged that this had likely led to a decline in MDP membership.
Former security forces join the movement
One of the few groups of public officials to swell the ranks of the CDM in recent months are the country’s security forces, according to People’s Embrace – a faction within the movement made up of former junta soldiers.
CDM Captain Lin Htet Aung told RFA that former members of the security forces who have joined the movement now number around 10,000, which he says is partly because they no longer want to to be complicit in the killing of civilians by the junta.
“We realize that we are fighting against the population. We kill people and they hate us. We no longer have the support of the people,” he said.
“We realize that we are working to serve the personal interests of military leaders and not in the national interest. … This led to a steady increase in the number of deserters.
Lin Htet Aung said more people would leave the military and police if their safety could be guaranteed.
Meanwhile, relatives of members of the security forces told RFA that the junta had tightened restrictions within the military and police forces in an effort to deter potential deserters, including by restricting their access to friends and family. family.
The junta’s deputy information minister, Major General Zaw Min Tun, dismissed allegations that authorities had targeted CDM personnel.
“In some cases, there have been dismissals … but these measures have been taken in accordance with the staff regulations in force,” he said.
“However, in cases where [CDM staff] are found guilty of inciting people to demonstrate, they will be punished according to law.
According to the Thai Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, around 100 HOM personnel are serving prison terms in Myanmar and at least 886 are in detention.
Myanmar-based political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe told RFA that the MDP will continue to lose members if they cannot guarantee their personal and financial security.
“After more than a year, we can say that the CDM is running out of steam,” he said. “This is because many CDM employees already have to risk their lives for the movement. Things become untenable if they are also unable to earn enough to live on.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.