15 February 2021   Leave a comment

There have been nine days of protests against the military coup in Myanmar. The protests are acts of civil disobedience which were started by the country’s doctors but now include transportation and electrical power workers. The strikes have immobilized commercial activities in the country, primarily in the former capitol city of Yangon (the military moved the government bureaucracies to the city of Naypyidaw in 2006). The coup dashed the hopes for a return to democracy after the military junta which had ruled the country since 1962 dissolved in 2011. But the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, since that time never really exercised autonomous control. The military was always in the background and Suu Kyi, who was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was never strong enough to prevent the military from conducting brutal measures against the Royingha minority in the Rakhine province. The New York Times describes the effect of the civil disobedience movement:

“The civil disobedience movement, or C.D.M., as it is known, has widespread support across the country. It targets the military’s extensive business interests and government functions essential to military rule, as well as encompassing street demonstrations and a noisy new evening ritual of banging on pots and pans.

“The huge outpouring of support is all the more impressive given the military’s brutal history of gunning down pro-democracy protesters in 1988 and 2007. One expert on the government’s civil service system estimated that the country had about one million civil servants and that about three-quarters of them had walked off their jobs. Many are essential in keeping the country running.”

The military junta has responded by shutting down the internet and by arresting and firing on protesters. The strikes have a dramatic effect on the Myanmar military since the military has substantial investments in corporations that work in Myanmar. The military, however, also faces substantial pressure from abroad as several countries have imposed sanctions on the junta. Al Jazeera describes the efforts of the US to force the military to back down:

“On Thursday Washington blacklisted eight individuals, including the defense and home affairs ministers, imposed additional sanctions on the top two military officials and targeted three companies in the jade and gems sector, according to the Treasury Department’s website.

“’The US Department of Treasury designated 10 individuals and three entities, for their association to the military apparatus responsible for the coup. Three entities, wholly owned subsidiaries of a conglomerate owned or controlled by the Burmese military have also been designated,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“’Additionally, as the President announced the US government has also taken steps to prevent the generals from improperly accessing more than $1bn dollars in Burmese government funds held in the US, the Department of Commerce is also taking immediate action to limit exports of sensitive goods to the Burmese military and other entities associated with the recent coup.

“’In addition, we’re freezing US assistance that benefits the Burmese Government, while maintaining our support for our healthcare civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the Burmese people directly. We will also continue our support for the Rohingya and other vulnerable populations,’ Psaki said.”

People make three-finger salutes of defiance during an anti-coup march in Yangon, Myanmar.

Posted February 15, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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