Myanmar: Resistance against junta rule rages on

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) joins the global democratic movement in lauding the resiliency, bravery and sacrifice of the Myanmar people, including the workers and trade unionists, in their struggle against tyranny and despotism. Two years have passed since Tatmadaw has launched a coup that toppled Myanmar’s democratically-elected government and usurped power for itself, its military junta has failed to effectively take over the country. The Burmese people’s democratic resistance continues to grow, defy extraordinary adversities and inspire millions across the globe.  

Important victories

BWI is proud to stand with the Myanmar working people as they achieve important victories in their fight to reclaim their democracy. Some of these are the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG), the non-recognition of the military regime’s credentials at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the continuing economic embargo imposed on the military junta, and the adoption of a UN Security Council Resolution on December 2022 that expressed deep concerns regarding the violence in Myanmar. 

Moreover, the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO) and the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) also have effective control of more than half of the country since waging a defensive war against the military junta, with 8,000 soldiers and police personnel reportedly defecting to the side of the resistance. 

“Hefty price”

However, these came at a hefty price.  According to the rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 11,000 people, including trade unionists, have been arrested since the military coup. Around 8,000 remain in detention and about 1,500 people were killed by the military junta. And there are no signs that the atrocities will subside anytime soon. 

More genocidal

The military junta, while globally isolated, is becoming more scheming, desperate and genocidal. To crush the popular resistance, the military regime has now resorted to brutal anti-insurgency campaigns, such as the public execution of democracy activists, air strikes and the dropping of bombs on civilian populations. At the same time, the country’s military junta is planning to cement its rule by conducting elections to justify its hold on power and provide it with some semblance of democratic legitimacy.

The Tatmadaw believes that it can accomplish all of these as long as the global community turns a blinds eye to its atrocities. As the world’s attention is drawn to other emerging crises, the junta now hopes to survive with the global community becoming indifferent to Myanmar. This cannot stand. Lest we forget, the military despots are used to endure international sanctions and ostracisation, having survived many of them in the past. It survives and thrives in the global community’s indifference. 

“The junta is strong when international response is weak”

The global community cannot afford to turn its back on Myanmar, especially on such a crucial moment. The junta is only strong when the international response is weak. The Myanmar people’s resistance may have been extremely resilient, but it cannot continue and eventually win without more global support and recognition.

Thus, BWI joins fellow global unions, parliamentarians, human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists worldwide in challenging the international community to:

  • Once and for all recognise the NUG as the legitimate government of the Myanmar people and provide it the necessary support to effectively govern. 
  • Guarantee the free movement of NUG representatives, trade unionists and other democracy activists to travel and lobby for their cause. 
  • Develop and implement a plan with specific indicators and a timeline that enforces the ASEAN’s 5-point consensus on Myanmar. 
  • Impose more coordinated and targeted sanctions against the junta, particularly the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), among others.

The Myanmar people’s persevering resistance has exposed the military junta’s failed coup. Two years after the Tatmadaw grabbed power for itself, the Myanmar people’s resistance against junta rule rages on. They don’t deserve a failed international response to the crisis. The global community must not aid tyranny with apathy. It must respond with all-out solidarity to defend democracy.