[Repost] Myanmar Six Months After The Coup: ’We Only Have Ourselves’

2 August 2021

https://www.reportingasean.net/myanmar-six-months-after-the-coup-we-only-have-ourselves/

YANGON/BANGKOK | 29 Jul 2021

You pause before picking up a call from an unknown phone number. You’re ready to change plans in a second, if explosions occur in your area or soldiers show up. When going out, you may delete the Facebook app from your phone, lest you get stopped by soldiers wanting to check your posts. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you look for an antigen test kit before trying to get an RT-PCR test or go to hospital.

These are among the survival skills that many people in Myanmar are using these days, six months after the February military coup. Hypervigilance has become routine.

Anxiety is never too far away as they make their way through layer upon layer of crises – the political crisis sparked by the military’s ouster of the elected government on Feb 1, the economy’s breakdown amid rising poverty, and a third COVID-19 wave surging in the wake of a collapsed system for delivering public services.

“I always feel insecure wherever I go,” said one resident of Yangon, the commercial capital of this country of over 57 million people. “I dare not bring my phone because I’m scared when I hear that security forces are checking mobile phones, and they also take money. So I never take much money if I go out.”

“I’m also insecure at home because they (soldiers) can check any time and they take whatever they want,” she added.

“There are lots of things to care about when you go outside, not only the COVID third wave but also explosions, people in uniform,” agreed one artist. “Our daily lives are different compared to before, due to COVID and the coup – double trouble – in terms of work security, safety, unemployment.”

Locals say the price of some goods and medicines, food items have risen by 20 to 40%. Worries abound about the latest harvest and future ones, because farmers (80% are small farmers) depend on credit from the state and fertiliser prices have shot up by 50%. Fuel prices are reported to have nearly doubled since February.

Power outages are worrisome amid a pandemic that sees daily new cases at 4,000-5,000 and over 300 deaths daily. Cases are under-reported as testing is severely limited, and infectivity is very high: 37% of COVID-19 tests were positive, as of Jul 22. Only Mexico’s 38.1% is higher in the One World in Data global tracker.

Cash is a precious commodity, one that can be received after shelling out 6-10% commission fees to brokers and mobile apps. “Wasting our money in these horrible times” is how the owner of a small business puts it. Access to cash has become better in some cases, but long queues are common and limits on cash withdrawals remain.

Even as the pandemic rages – and has affected its ranks – Myanmar’s military has continued to arrest anti-coup protesters, those who have stayed with the civil disobedience movement that started right after the coup.

“Now I’m afraid of going outside and I dare not pick up calls from unknown people,” said one schoolteacher who continues to stay away from her work with the government. “I’m also afraid to answer calls because some officers in our department threaten and force (us) to go back to work. And I’m always afraid of the informers and spies of the military.”

For many, there is too much of the military’s presence in their lives, but too little, or none, of public governance in this catastrophe unfolding in their midst.“It is estimated that up to 90% of national government activity has ceased,” the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in its June report on the economic fallout and food insecurity in Myanmar since the coup.

As they have learned to do under past periods of military rule, Myanmar’s people are turning to one another, forming networks of their own, to survive.

Communities have been arranging donation drives for those who have lost relatives to the pandemic or are taking care of the sick, and others who are in self-isolation. Volunteers are still driving patients to hospitals, which have run out of beds. Online groups help track supplies of medical oxygen amid the ongoing scarcity. Many share what income they make with the jobless.

DISASTER OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

But still tougher times lie ahead in what Myanmar historian Thant Myint-U calls an “economic and humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”. The economy is expected to contract by 18% in 2021, said the World Bank’s ‘Myanmar Economic Monitor’ in late July. At nearly double the 10% contraction projected in March, it is Southeast Asia’s largest such plunge. 

“As the third wave of COVID-19 outbreak struck and strict containment measures were reimposed, an even worse scenario could unfold, with poverty levels in 2022 rising to well over twice as high as they were in 2019 (22.4% in 2018/19), wiping out gains of over a decade of poverty reduction progress,” the World Bank said.

The same report said one million jobs could be lost in 2021 out of a labour force of some 25 million – and this figure excludes workers in the huge informal economy. Already, the International Labour Organization says, 3.1 million full-time equivalent jobs have been lost due to COVID-19 and containment measures.

Migrant workers and those overseas are finding it harder, and often more expensive, to send money into Myanmar, through informal channels. More than 10 million people cite remittances as an income source, says the WFP, and 40% of remittances come from abroad.

Half of households have reported cutting consumption, including food, the World Bank said. Up to 3.4 million more people are at risk of food insecurity, on top of the 2.8 million who were not getting enough food before the coup, the WFP said in its June situation report

Many pin hopes on the National Unity Government that was formed on Apr 16. With 16 ministers apart from a prime minister, the government-in-exile reports on meetings with foreign diplomats and parliamentarians, sends officials to speak at webinars. But it is struggling to gain international recognition and faces challenges around having its decisions actually carried out inside the country.

As COVID-19 took a turn for the worse in June, its health ministry opened a telemedicine channel on Facebook and formed a national committee with the health organizations of several ethnic groups, but a mechanism for a pandemic response is unclear.

“I would like to appeal to all the people of Myanmar to continue the fight bravely with the spirit of victory in mind,” said Mahn Wann Khaing Thann, NUG prime minister. “When we succeed, our government will repay and work for the establishment of a Federal Democratic Union that all people aspire to.”

THE PRESENT MOMENT

But it is the here and now that people live in – and like the COVID-19 pandemic, an end to the crisis is not within sight.

“We only have ourselves,” said a Yangon resident. “We have to take care, as much as we can, of food, medicine, oxygen, and other basic needs. The authorities can’t do anything. Unfortunately, it’s like we are waiting for the day we die.”

“I can’t sleep well at night,” confided another local. “Most of my family members are jobless right now. Even though I save money, not spending spend much money, I’m afraid that one day, I won’t be able to make it.”

(*This feature is part of the ‘Lens Southeast Asia’ series of Reporting ASEAN, supported by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.)

(END/Reporting ASEAN/Edited by J Son)


[Repost] Latest update on Myanmar by ANFREL

27 July 2021

IN SOLIDARITY: A CALL FOR ALL PEOPLE IN ASEAN

22 March 2021

(Update – 27 March) – Thank you to everyone who have shared the word, contributed to the collage or are doing your part to spread the word and show support for the people in Myanmar.

We have created a collage based on submissions from our readers. Please do share this video collage with those around you.


THIS CHAPTER: A IN SOLIDARITY CALL TO ALL PEOPLE IN SINGAPORE

Dear Everyone,

We are trying to get MANY, MANY people in Singapore to show their support for the people in Myanmar.

These are the details:

  • February 1st the military (Tatmadaw) in a coup d’état took over rule from an elected government, disregarding the results, the positive comments made by international elections observers or the work done by the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)
  • They arrested many elected political leaders, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Millions of Myanmarese protested, many stopped work to join the civil disobedience movement (CDM) to fight for their democracy, freedom and justice. Many young and older persons have said that they are ready to die for their country and freedom.
  • To date (March 21st) 235 people have been killed, mainly from shots to their heads.  Many more injured. More than 2,330 people have been arrested. Myanmar is under martial law set by the military
  • The military is relentless in targeting people, communities, killings, destroying the CDM’s barricades in the many cities around the country and in forcing threatening people to be their human shields in the work against protesters.
  • Some countries have stated they are not recognising the Tatmadaw as the government of Myanmar. Some have imposed sanctions. United Nations has issued statements. So has ASEAN. Some ASEAN member countries have issued stronger statements on this situation. But thoughtful and concerted action remains limited.
  • Some Links given below give a clearer picture of the situation.

What we are asking from you:

A call has been made to people in ASEAN to show solidarity with the people in Myanmar.

As people living in Singapore, we hope you will believe in supporting the people in Myanmar. If so, please do this:

  • take a photo of yourself, holding up the 3-finger salute that Myanmarese are using.
  • Do not make the photo larger than 1megabytes
  • Please send it to maruahsg@gmail.com with the subject – In Solidarity with Myanmar (Photo collage)
  • Please indicate a name in English, if you like, otherwise, the subtitled image will be left anonymous.
  • MARUAH Singapore reserves the right to reject images that are offensive and prejudicial to the intent and spirit of this request.
  • Please submit your photos  by Thursday 25th March by 10.00 pm.
  • Sample image (taken from the Internet)

The collage will be created with some of the following statements:

From Singapore: IN SOLIDARITY With The People In Myanmar

WE ARE:

# AGAINST the Coup d’état and Military takeover in Myanmar

# AGAINST the escalating armed violence by the military

# AGAINST people being killed and injured

#AGAINST Imprisonment, Tortures, Deaths of political leaders, activists, journalists, protesters

# AGAINST THE LACK OF ACTION by International, Regional communities

# FOR Democracy

# FOR Rule of Law

# FOR Humanitarian Aid for the injured and food for the people

# FOR China and Russia to not veto and join the UN Security Council to denounce the military takeover and support action against the military for the coup and the violence

# FOR Targeted Economic Sanctions, Global Travel Bans and Asset Freezes by Governments, Banks and the Private Sector when it comes to military personnel, military-owned companies within the Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Companies and Myanmar Economic Corporation

# FOR a global arms embargo to block supplies and sales of weaponry to the military and other armed groups

Sources:
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-regime-issues-arrest-warrant-crph-intl-envoy-treason-charge.html
https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/how-the-cdm-can-win/
https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2021/march/what-next-for-burma
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdEyuic_SrM&t=3232s
https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/15/targeted-sanctions-needed-against-myanmars-coup-leaders
https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2021-03-15/statement%C2%A0attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the%C2%A0secretary-general-myanmar
https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086962
http://www.asean2021.bn/Theme/news/iamm-02.03.21.aspx
https://thediplomat.com/2021/03/asean-foreign-ministers-meet-to-discuss-myanmar-crisis/
https://www.mfa.gov.sg/Newsroom/Press-Statements-Transcripts-and-Photos/2021/03/20210322-Min-visit-to-Brunei
https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/un-security-council-agrees-to-condemn-myanmar-violence-urge-military-restraint
https://maruah.org/2021/02/11/statement-of-foreboding-over-the-military-takeover-of-the-government-of-myanmar/

MARUAH is coordinating this In Solidarity action. About MARUAH: https://maruah.org/about/


(updated) Statement of Foreboding over the Military Takeover of the Government of Myanmar

11 February 2021

For a copy of the statement in PDF format, please click here.

February 11, 2021

MARUAH unequivocally condemns the military takeover of Myanmar on February 1, 2021.

The Tatmadaw (military) overthrew the elected government of Myanmar, detained government leaders, civil service officers, activists and human rights rights defenders, imposed a year-long Emergency on the country and has blocked intermittently access to Internet. To date the military has given no official data on the state of well-being of the elected leaders of the Myanmar government, their locations, the number of people arrested and information on who have been arrested.

The Tatmadaw acted deliberately and intentionally. This is a coup d’état. The fragile democracy in Myanmar is in tatters. Military personnel have become the new political leaders of the country. The military supporters and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and Buddhist nationalists jointly presented themselves as custodians of Buddhism in the 2020 General Elections, saying that the National League Democracy political party as being anti-Buddhism. Currently this joint force is patrolling the streets alongside uniformed soldiers and police to arrest, threaten and beat-up thousands of protesters in the streets. People in Myanmar are saying clearly that they do not wish to be under military rule as they had experienced it over 50 years (1962-2011). The Tatmadaw in the past had suppressed Buddhism, resulting in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, but now has an ally in the Buddhist Nationalists. Reports are coming in on protesters being arrested, beaten, tear-gassed and shot at across Myanmar, in Naypyidaw, Bago, Magway and Mandalay. MARUAH finds this new kinship between Buddhist nationalists and the military disconcerting as its puts into jeopardy the lives, safety and well-being of people of different religious beliefs amongst the 135 ethnic groups as well as the Rohingyas.

MARUAH also recalls the people’s experiences when the country was under successive military regimes. They were times of long imprisonments, solitary confinements, tortures, extreme poverty, starvation, lack of medical attention, low development, fear and distrust. In recent years we saw the persecution of the Rohingyas, many of whom fled the country. The track record of the past and current governments has been to uphold Myanmar’s sovereignty in the face regional and international interventions on human rights violations and to dismiss the UN reports as being biased and hypocritical. Universally, we presided over an impasse as a million refugees continued

to live in poor conditions and the incessant armed conflicts between the Tatmadaw and rebel forces, resulting in deaths, injuries, rapes and destructions of homes. MARUAH emphasises this blatant disregard shown by the Myanmar governments to abide by the Responsibility to Protect principles. MARUAH also deplores the indifference given to protecting people against Covid-19 in this planned coup.

MARUAH has been in solidarity with many civil society actors in expressing their deep concerns over this 10-day-old takeover. But we make this statement, appealing for a deeper cognizance of the character of the people in Myanmar and for actions to protect them. They are, by thousands, in the streets picking up the cudgels to fight for their democracy and to be governed by an elected government, not a military force that usurped the power. They are reaching out to the global community, risking their safety, to share detailed accounts on what is going on in the country.

We appreciate deeply the prompt response from our own government, Singapore, as well as statements from Association of Southeast Nations’ (ASEAN) leaders and the United Nations. We are particularly pleased that United States of America and New Zealand have declared that they will not recognise the new government of Myanmar. We have also noted reports emerging from both state-level and private sector investments and business partnerships in Myanmar. Based on the series of crimes against humanity over 50 years, the lack of culpability by the government of Myanmar, and the resilience of the people in Myanmar in fighting for their freedom and rights, MARUAH urges strongly that we cannot become witnesses to a blood bath in Myanmar. MARUAH asks for a deeper commitment, beyond the suggested meetings to seek negotiation and reconciliation with the Tatmadaw. We ask for a clear course of steps that underscore the unacceptability of this coup, the non-recognition of the Tatmadaw as the government and that economic partnerships be reviewed. To prevent an escalation into a civil war and to protect the people, we humbly make a call for governments, ASEAN and the UN, to:

  • fundamentally, focus on protecting the people of Myanmar whose security and freedom are under threat;
  • develop access routes on funding and prepare safe places as people are fleeing Myanmar to seek refuge in other countries;
  • ask for information on prisoners and their release;
  • ensure that people in Myanmar have an unfettered access to Internet and communication tools, with an understanding that social media platforms will suspend harbingers of ‘hate speeches’;
  • reaffirm the principles of democracy and fair play as a rule of law and conduct as prescribed in the ASEAN Charter and United Nations Declaration of Human Rights;
  • officially, not recognise the Tatmadaw as the government of Myanmar;
  • institute a process for an interim government of multi-stakeholder representatives, including some military officials to be set up;
  • institute a neutral and independent body of global experts on a fact-finding mission to ascertain if there was electoral fraudulence;
  • appoint a UN Special Rapporteur to investigate and document the human rights situation in Myanmar;
  • recommend UN bodies and International Criminal Court to issue an Inquiry on the Tatmadaw, based on charges of the coup d’etat and crimes against humanity;
  • review the nature of investments made in Myanmar and abide by the principles of ethical investing, ethical business conduct, and put in place targeted sanctions against the military and their partners’ enterprises;
  • impose an embargo on the arms trade into Myanmar;
  • build on an alliance with China to be a partner in non-recognition of the military-led government of Myanmar.

Issued by MARUAH Singapore.


About MARUAH Singapore

We are a Singapore human rights NGO.

MARUAH means Dignity in Malay, Singapore’s national language. Human rights are all about maintaining, restoring and reclaiming one’s dignity at the individual, regional and international level.

We seek to:

  • promote and raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of human rights and human rights and related issues at the national, regional and international levels, in Singapore, ASEAN and elsewhere
  • provide a civil society perspective on human rights and related issues at the national, regional, and international levels
  • advocate for and work towards the respect for and upholding of human rights in accordance with international and other norms
  • foster national, regional, and international co-ordination and development of all activities in relation to human rights and related issues facilitate the education, participation and
  • engagement of persons, groups and organisations in Singapore with respect to human rights and related issues.

MARUAH is also the Singapore focal point for the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. The Working Group has national representatives from all of the founding Member States of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

The Working Group is an NGO officially recognised in the ASEAN Charter as a stakeholder in ASEAN.

maruahsg@gmail.com

www.maruah.org