In the early hours of Feb. 1, the people of Myanmar (Burma) were transported back in time to August 8, 1988, the date that marked the beginning of the People’s Power Uprising. The People’s Power Uprising was an inclusive and far-reaching demonstration of civil disobedience in which citizens fought against autocratic rule and demanded their democratic rights and freedoms.
The movement was instigated by students in the capitol city of Yangon who were protesting against the Burma Socialist Programme Party, which imposed a totalitarian military dictatorship on the country from 1962 to 1988. Hundreds of thousands of Myanmar citizens subsequently joined the movement.
Calls for democracy and freedom were met with violent retaliation from the military-run government, resulting in thousands of innocent civilians being beaten, detained and killed.
On Nov. 8, Myanmar held general elections that resulted in 61 percent of the seats parliament being awarded to National League of Democracy candidates, easily beating the military-run Union Solidarity and Development Party by a landslide.
These election results were accepted and celebrated throughout the country, and the newly elected officials were set to take office Feb. 1. But this never happened.
The Myanmar military, headed by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, forcibly seized power and detained President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, among many other high ranking officials. These democratically elected leaders were detained based on false claims of election fraud, of which there was no evidence. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with the “criminal” offense of having unauthorized walkie talkies on her property.
Since the detention on its democratically elected leaders Feb. 1, the people of Myanmar have bonded together in solidarity to protest this forceful takeover. Mass protests are held every day throughout the country, including the pounding of metal pails and drums in a ceremony that was once a traditional practice to drive out evil spirits.
The symbolism is clear. The people wish to drive out the illegitimate oppressors who have once again illegally taken over their government.
The civil disobedience movement began immediately after the takeover, and demonstrations continue each and every day. In response, the military has suspended all social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The military does not want the world to know what is happening.
The United States, EU, UNSC and many others have denounced this coup and have contemplated sanctions on the country’s leadership. We are encouraged by the strong statement of condemnation from the White House, but we are aware that the Myanmar army will not yield its power easily.
We ask for the strongest possible sanctions and other measures against this military dictatorship. We ask for America’s support in restoring our treasured democracy.