Since 1 February 2021, Myanmar has been in turmoil as the Myanmar army, known as the Tatmadaw, detained State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint following a general election which Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide. The coup by General Min Aung Hlaing brought an end to a decade of semi-democratic rule and returned full power to the military.
Courageously, the population has been resisting and demanding the release of the imprisoned leaders and the restoration of democratic rule. A massive civil disobedience movement has emerged and hundreds of thousands are taking to the streets in spite of the military’s use of lethal force against protesters. At least 919 people, a majority of young age and even children in their own homes, have been killed and more than 5,293 people, including journalists, have been arrested, charged or sentenced. The coup has also entangled Myanmar’s COVID-19 vaccination and containment efforts and the pandemic is now out of control. Economic collapse amid escalating conflict is making of Myanmar a failed state. The global community has overall condemned the coup and the military abuses, but concerted diplomatic interventions are still too bland. While the future of Myanmar is in the hands of its people, international and regional bodies ought to isolate the military junta, ban arms, embargo business by the militaries and their cronies, address gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and provide humanitarian relief to the population.
SEA Junction launched the first series #WhatsHappeninginMyanmar Bi-Weekly Updates soon after the coup. The aim was to contribute to a greater understanding of the evolving situation in Myanmar for informed action in support of the democratic movement in the country and beyond. Lasting from March to June 2021, the initial series of six updates was held in collaboration with the Irrawaddy and featured its Founder and Director Aung Zaw as resource person as you can watch here. The speaker provided an analysis of the latest events in the preceding two weeks for about 20 minutes before the moderator opening, SEA Junction’s Founder and Director Rosalia Sciortino, opened the floor for questions and answers.
In view of the positive response, and taking into account that there is a need to keep Myanmar on the public agenda in the midst of many other global worries, we have decided to start a follow-up series with the same format, but featuring a different partner and speaker. Like the first, this second series of updates is to be held every two weeks for a period of three months and each episode consists of 20-minutes analysis and 40 minutes Q & A. This time, however, the resource person is the well-known Peace and Security Advocate Khin Ohmar (see short bio below) and we are partnering with a Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR). To participate, turn in for the 7th Update planned for 3 August 2021 at 8.00-9.00 pm (Bangkok Time) via Zoom (Link: http://bit.ly/Zoom-SEAJunction) and Facebook Live on our page @SEA-Junction.
Ms. Khin Ohmar is an experienced peace and security advocate from Myanmar. For the past 30 years, she has worked with fellow Burmese democracy activists as well as with ethnic women and youth from conflict-affected areas in Myanmar, including Kachin, Karen, Lahu and Rohingya. In 2008, Ms. Ohmar won the Anna Lindh Prize, awarded annually to a woman or young person with “the courage to fight indifference, prejudice, oppression and injustices in order to promote a good life for all people in an environment marked by respect for human rights.” The award citation stated, “Her courageous and visionary work is a source of inspiration for all those engaged in the struggle for human rights and for a life of dignity.” She also won the 2008 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for Human Rights, which she shared with Shan Women’s Action Network activist Charm Tong. US First Lady Laura Bush, the award’s presenter, described Khin Ohmar as “one of the strongest voices against Burma’s violent regime.”