Around the Globe: Myanmar

Three years of resistance

On 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military staged a brutal coup, arresting leaders of the democratically elected government. The world watched in horror as the military commenced a war against its own people.

Over the past three years, widespread violence has caused a humanitarian and refugee crisis, with 18.6 million people in Myanmar currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

Yet the people of Myanmar continue to organise and oppose military rule. Resistance is growing, not just from ethnic minority groups who have been fighting the military regime for 70 years, but from the Burman ethnic majority, who are also rising up.

Since the coup, a civilian government made up of ethnic representatives and elected officials – many who were ousted in the coup – has formed. The National Unity Government (NUG) is gaining international recognition as a legitimate alternative to the military junta and offers a beacon of hope for a future federated and democratic Myanmar.

From Myanmar to Melbourne: International solidarity

In early March, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered in Melbourne for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

To coincide with the ASEAN meeting, the Myanmar People’s Summit was held, co-sponsored by the NUG Representative to Australia Office, Myanmar Campaign Network, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), and SEARCH Foundation.

Guest speakers included NUG representatives, the Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Xanana Gusmão, Reverend Tim Costello and Director of Economic & Social Policy at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Alison Tate, among others.

Opening the Summit, ACTU Assistant Secretary Joseph Mitchell acknowledged the Australian union movement’s long support of Myanmar. “We stand with the people of Myanmar in calling on the Australian government to take strong action against the military,” Mitchell said. “We call on ASEAN leaders to take a strong stance against the regime at the ASEAN Australia Special Summit.”

After its own fight for democracy, Timor Leste understands the suffering the people of Myanmar face and offered its unwavering support. “We know from experience, the importance of international solidarity,” Prime Minister Gusmão said. “The people of Myanmar are not alone.”

Alison Tate added to the ACTU’s call for Australia to take action. “Australia has the capacity to engage in honest and direct conversations with ASEAN member countries,” she said. “What is needed now is real action and sanctions [to stop revenues to the military regime]. 2024 is a year for change!”

Reverend Tim Costello extended his support to Burmese people in Australia. “There are 10,000 Burmese in Australia who are Baptists,” he said. “I am very glad to raise Baptist voices. We’ve got work to do and I commit my support.”

The NUG’s Dr Tun Aung Shwe offered a glimpse of hope for the future. “There’s economic and political instability after 70 years of civil war. The military cannot bring peace to Myanmar. But today, Burmese majority and ethnic minority groups, the NUG and leaders of the Spring Revolution have formulated a Federal Democracy Charter; the basic principle to establish a new Federal Democratic Union of Myanmar in the future.”

The IEU thanks Myanmar Campaign Network for their assistance. For more information:

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Katie Camarena