Railway workers join an anti-regime protest in Mandalay in February 2021. / The Irrawaddy
Through Thai PBS January 24, 2022
A week after the February 1, 2021 coup in Myanmar, the entire nation erupted in protests in many forms, involving people from many walks of life, including but not limited to Gen Z youth. , students, doctors, teachers, engineers and even workers.
While the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) did not go into effect immediately, youth leadership and growing protest efforts against the military dictatorship quickly spawned perhaps the world’s oldest CDM.
Two weeks into the nationwide protests, the roots of the CDM movement were in the public health sector, with involvement from doctors to local public health administrators.
“I don’t want to do my duty under military dictators. Under them, even professionals have to bow down to people who know nothing about the things they are supposed to deal with,” said a doctor from Yangon General Hospital who has been part of the CDM since its inception.
Similar to the doctor, there were many who were unhappy with the coup and refused to continue going to work.
“After the coup, I stopped going to work and continued to participate in protests. From there, I saw people slaughtered before my eyes. It solidified my decision to stop working under this putschist government,” an education sector official said.
Due to the non-violent but highly effective CDM, many aspects of governance have been put in difficult situations.
According to a press conference held by the military council, almost 30% of civil servants participate in the CDM, a figure that many members of the public and CDM participants believe is lower than the actual percentage involved.
“More than half of the teachers participated in the CDM in my school. If we add all the technical universities, I think it will be around 50% or 55% for the education sector,” said a professor from a technical university in Ayeyarwady region.
Over time, the military government has screwed up CDM participants in a myriad of ways, ranging from encouraging a return to work for higher salaries and/or promotions.
There are also continued attempts by the military government to carry out surprise checks on private companies linked to the CDM, such as those in the health sector, to ensure that no CDM personnel are employed.
Despite these efforts, the CDM continues.
“In April, letters were sent to try to call us back to work. None of us did. They tried again in May, threatening legal action and demanding that we repay any loans. Some, over time, have broken away and re-entered the workforce due to their financial situation, but I believe it’s still about half who refuse to return,” the speaker said.
Soldiers also participated in the MDP, beginning around April, two months after the coup. Since then, more than 2,000 soldiers have participated and, according to Nyi Thuta, an MDP soldier, the numbers are still far too low.
“In any organization, a higher rank means more responsibility. It’s been almost a year now. The private ones make CDM and the highest ranked civil servants should have been faster than them. Towns and villages are bombed and mass killings occur. It shouldn’t take so long for people to oppose the military council doing this,” Nyi Thuta said.
From this point on, most of the ranks involved in CDM are privates, sergeants, and some majors.
How to survive?
Needless to say, CDM participants are facing challenges, but those who remain, despite nearly a year, are holding on as best they can.
“There are a lot of things. We had to leave the apartments assigned to us because, if we didn’t want to, we had to go back to work. It’s not a problem, but the resulting problem of putting food on the table is. I have to do all the work I can find each month,” said a rail worker participating in the MDP.
Like him, civil service technicians, office workers, etc., turned into carpenters, salesmen, taxi drivers, etc.
“Of course, I miss my old life, but the children gave and continue to risk their lives in battle. During this time, I don’t want to carry the title of ‘prof’. What respect will they have for me? The trade is my honor for my old profession. I will not do this profession,” said the professor of a technical university.
There are private companies, including hospitals, that quietly hire CDM participants or regularly donate to CDM participants, but their efforts are not enough to satisfy everyone.
“I connect CDM participants with jobs at companies that are ready to hire them, but there are still too many I can’t help,” said a recruiting agent who tries to help CDM. .
The National Unity Government (NUG), a parallel government formed by exiled lawmakers and other political figures, has also provided support, but it would be insufficient. The NUG’s countless fundraising attempts, while they can be called successful, only manage to support about 4% of CDM participants who have officially registered for NUG support.
In addition to financial hardship, MDP participants should also be wary of arrests by the military. According to them, if someone is reported as participating in the MDP, it is very likely that he will have to flee immediately or be arrested in the next few days.
When will the long march end?
It’s almost the first anniversary of the coup and the MDP that grew out of it.
Despite the continuing difficulties and the likelihood that there will be more down the road, those who have remained loyal participants in the CDM swear they will continue until the dictatorship is toppled.
Myanmar’s CDM has been recognized as a nominee for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and has been listed as one of the oldest CDMs in the world.
“We will stay strong. It was a year of many difficulties. It couldn’t get any worse than this, so we will keep going until the dictators are overthrown,” the speaker said.
This article was first published by Thai PBS World.
You might also like these stories:
After residents fled the fighting, Myanmar soldiers looted the town
NUG accuses Myanmar junta of committing crimes against humanity
Suspended international infrastructure projects resumed in Myanmar