On ‘Armed Forces Day’, 27th of March, the security forces of the military junta in Myanmar killed more than 100 civilians– making it the deadliest day since the coup on the 1st of February.  The junta carried on with their planned celebrations of lavish parades and parties.

But for those who are against all what is represented by the junta–corruption, inequality, undemocracy–the day was reclaimed as ‘Resistance Day’ where protesters took to the streets to protest the illegitimate rule and injustice across the nation. ‘Resistance Day’ was historically marked as the first day of resistance against Japanese occupation in Myanmar.

The day that clashed with a celebration-of vs the liberation-from Myanmar’s military junta resulted in an overkill of violence, with the death toll climbing past 300, it was labeled a shameful day by news media across the world.

It has been 2 months since the military takeover of the country after deposing its democratically elected leaders. March 27’s event showed that nobody, not even children, were safe from the regime’s rule of terror. 

On February 1st, 2021, State Counsellor and leader of the NLD party, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and elected President, U Win Myint, were put under house arrest by the State Administrative Council led by General Min Aung Hlaing. They then declared a one-year state of emergency due to an alleged voter fraud in the 2020 general elections and promised another election by the end of the year. Aung San Suu Kyi was later charged with breaking import restrictions with possession of illegally imported walkie-talkies. She and U Win Myint were both charged with natural disaster management law for breaking social distancing rules during the election campaign period. Civilians across the country erupted in anger towards the military junta: more than any of the claims against the victor Suu Kyi, the people did not want to go back to the days of dictators.

Doctors were the first to call for a civil disobedience movement (CDM) when they started mass strikes which quickly spread across different sectors of civil servants. Mass dissent mainly remained online for the first week as people refrained from going out to the streets; fearing a repeat of the deadly events of 1988.  People found creative ways to let their voices be heard while staying at home by banging on pots and pans in unison every night at 8pm. According to Burmese superstition, it would drive away evil spirits.

In response to the protest actions, internet connection was first disrupted on February 1 and then cut on February 6th, although it was restored the next day. However, it only brought people a definitive cause to flood the streets, quickly becoming one of the biggest protests since the Saffron Revolution in 2007.

And the military’s next move was to impose a curfew of 8pm and a ban on gatherings of more than 5 people. Despite the ban, the protesters remained in high spirits as thousands around the country marched every day. They chanted ‘Doe A Yay’, which roughly translates to ‘Our Cause’.

After another weekend-long internet cut, connection would remain off between the hours of 1am to 9am. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Whatsapp remained blocked. However, people quickly surpassed it with VPNs. In the night time, people have had to organize community volunteer night watchers as the junta use drugged up former prisoners into residential neighborhoods to spring violence during the night. In a movement led by the young and digitally savvy Generation Z, protestors found creative ways to organize and capture international attention through social media platforms. From memes to music to paintings, it was shared locally and internationally. People adopted the three-finger salute from neighboring Thailand and demanded three things: (1) release the rightfully elected leaders, (2) abolish the 2008 constitution and (3) institute a true federal democracy. The revolution was named the Spring Revolution. 

Elected MPs who were pushed out of office put together the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) within the first week of the coup. It was made up of 17 ousted NLD lawmakers. They began to take steps towards gaining international recognition as the legitimate government representatives of Myanmar. Several members of the CRPH, such as Dr. SaSa who speaks on their behalf, specifically gained influence and traction on social media for their work. Meanwhile, the court appointments given to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint after the first hearing continue to be repeatedly delayed and rescheduled, citing lack of internet access in government courts. They remained under house arrest.

The first civilian death took place in the capital Nay Pyi Taw on 9th of February 2021. At the time, police mostly fired guns in the air and released water cannons to disperse crowds. But a young woman named Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing was shot in the head by a rubber bullet and passed away from the injury on February 19. This only enraged further the protestors. Businesses across the country came to a halt. The civil disobedience movement (CDM) gained momentum and was joined by train and airline staff, disrupting travel everywhere. Banking staff also began to participate in the strikes as branches slowly began to shut across the country. 

In the days following, the military amped up the crackdown. Teargas, flash grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds were used against peaceful protestors. Protestors retreated from large intersections to localized sites in their townships. They also suited up with DIY armors and defense weapons. Barricades were also put up to slow down and prevent the security forces. Creative methods were used such as sticking General Min Aung Hlaing’s pictures on the ground so security forces were unable to walk through until they individually removed the images. Women’s longyis (sarongs) were hung on cloth lines above barricades so soldiers and police would not walk through due to sexist cultural superstitions.

Mass arrests have been taking place since the second week of February. By then, thousands of people had already been arrested since the early days of the coup. Hundreds of students, celebrities, and other political prisoners remained detained. 

The CDM movement endured despite harsh crackdowns. Multiple fundraisers were set up to support striking civil servants who were currently without pay. More ministries and departments were joining the movement including police. Civilians were fundraising and donating towards anybody in need within their own communities. Donations also helped protestors acquire protective gear against violence from the military. At the same time, protestors fought on another front with the Boycott Military Products movement. From big supermarkets to small convenience stores, businesses destocked military owned products such as Myanmar Beer and Red Ruby cigarettes. Even businesses owned by family members of the military were also targeted by the movement. Information on who and why to boycott was shared across social media as protestors educated themselves and raised awareness in others. The social punishment movement, similar to cancel culture in the west, exposed and publicly shamed individuals that were part of or affiliated with the military. Individuals who spoke negatively of or against the movement were also targeted. Even the biggest celebrities in the nation were called out and unfollowed by protestors for not speaking out against the junta. 

Although the US, EU, and nations around the world have publicly condemned the coup and responded with targeted sanctions, protestors remained frustrated with what they felt was lacking in adequate support from the international community. People continued to hope for some sort of action from the security council according to the UN’s Responsibility to Protect. However, people understood the veto powers of China and Russia posed a great challenge and has even began to boycott Chinese products. As world leaders and the UN offered statements condemning the coup and calling for the junta to end the atrocities, people in Myanmar wondered how many more people had to die before the UN took action. Hope shifted towards ethnic armed organizations situated in the peripheries of the Myanmar border. The ethnic Bamar majority began to make reparations for the inequality and for turning a blind eye to the enduring civil war around the country. Many Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) pledged to stand by the people and in some areas even provided armed protection for marching protestors. 

Martial law was declared in a few townships in the outskirts of Yangon following a deadly day of clashes between protestors and security forces. Areas occupied by working class people and migrant workers were specifically targeted. Many fled to their hometowns in rural Myanmar when the violence continued the following days. Civil servants on strike were driven out of government housing, leaving many of them with nowhere to go. Meanwhile, the economy takes a toll with businesses and banks remaining closed and unemployment and prices rising. As the security forces continue to terrorize the country, the death toll climbs. A day before ‘Armed Forces Day’, the CDM movement in Myanmar was nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, bringing much needed strength to protestors. But the celebrations quickly dissipated when protestors experienced one of the bloodiest days yet. People echoed on social media that they would trade the prize for an end to all the horrors any day. 

Everyday is a nightmare in Myanmar. So what can you do about it? The CRPH government is in urgent need of funding to continue their work. Civil servants continue their strike despite being removed from their homes. Journalists also need funding to continue producing trustable source of news. All of these are integral for the revolution of taking back democracy to succeed. Many have already lost family members, are hurt, missing, and jobless. Ordinary people continue to donate money to help each other despite not having enough their selves. Donations from around the world would really help keep everybody supported while they continue to fight against injustice and for democracy. There are funds organized to support these individuals and organizations. While it can be hard to navigate which funds to donate to, isupportmyanmar.com is a good starting point. You may also donate to the CRPH on their gofundme. And of course, spread awareness where you can. Protecting democracy means protecting it anywhere else in the world.Take a stand with the people of Myanmar and help end this deadly nightmare.