How Myanmar’s popular uprising aims to topple military rulers

Amid crackdown, protesters aim is to take away the coup leaders’ power by stopping all governance mechanisms from working.

Starve the government of legitimacy and recognition; stop it from functioning by staging strikes; and cut off its sources of funding. That is the strategy emerging from a mass movement in Myanmar aimed at toppling the new military dictatorship.

As protesters defying the February 1 coup brave beatings, arrests, water cannon, and even live ammunition, activists hope a “no recognition, no participation” approach can sustain pressure even if demonstrations are stamped out with violence.

“The immediate aim is to take away the military’s power by stopping all of its governance mechanisms from working,” said Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who like many activists is now in hiding to avoid arrest.

“It will disable the military’s ability to rule.”

Myanmar’s fragile 10-year experiment in democracy was snuffed out in early February when soldiers arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other top officials in early morning raids as military chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power.

A civil disobedience movement began almost immediately and amassed support from broad swaths of society. Trains have ground to a halt, hospitals have closed, and ministries in the capital, Naypyidaw, are believed to be straining amid mass walkouts.

Many thousands including nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, farmers, railway staff, civil servants, factory workers and even some police officers, have gone on strike or defected in a bid to cripple the new military government.

Disrupting military’s business empire

In a statement published on a military Facebook page on Thursday, Min Aung Hlaing said “unscrupulous” people were inciting civil servants to leave work.

“Those who are away from their duties are requested to return to their duties immediately for the interests of the country and people,” he said.

The strikes are also disrupting parts of the military’s vast business empire. A copper mine in northern Sagaing region, jointly owned by the military and a Chinese company, has ceased operations after more than 2,000 workers walked out.

And hundreds of engineers and other staff working for Mytel, a telecoms operator part-owned by the military, have stopped work.

Calls for a boycott of products produced by army-owned companies have also gained momentum. Local business owners have destroyed cartons of cigarettes produced by the Virginia Tobacco Company, which is part-owned by Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, a military conglomerate.

 

Lim Kaling, a major Singaporean shareholder in the venture, announced he was divesting this week after facing pressure from activists at Justice For Myanmar and elsewhere.

Japanese brewer Kirin, meanwhile, has said it will withdraw from a joint venture with a military-owned beer company.

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