Home Feature Civil Disobedience Movement – Myanmar’s longest non-violent movement

Civil Disobedience Movement – Myanmar’s longest non-violent movement

Civil Disobedience Movement – Myanmar’s longest non-violent movement

Civil servants were not involved in the first protests against Myanmar’s military coup, but as the youth intensified their struggle across the country, they started the nonviolent Civil Disobedience Movement.

Monitoring Desk

Civil servants were not involved in the first protests against Myanmar’s military coup, but as the rallying of non-violent youth intensified across the country, they started the nonviolent Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)

In the immediate aftermath of the February 1 (2021) coup there were protests. They were attended by a cross-section of society including young people, students, workers, doctors, teachers and engineers.

About two weeks after the coup doctors, nurses and surgeons from government-run hospitals, health officers from township health departments and others began participating in the non-violent CDM by refusing to go to work.

“We do not want to serve under a military dictatorship. If we work under them, as professionals we have to show them respect. They don’t know how to do anything, and we cannot do our jobs as we normally would,” said a doctor from a government hospital in Yangon where the CDM movement has been operating since mid-February.

Many civil servants did not want to work under the coup administration because they could not accept that the military had deposed a popularly elected government, so they stayed at home instead of going to work.

“I have not gone to work since the coup, later I went on strike. I have seen people being shot in front of me. It has made me stronger in my resolution to not go to work,” said an education official who is involved in the CDM movement.

As government departments came under the coup administration, government officials and staff such as health workers, educational staff, social workers, employees from government and privately owned banks, and staff from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy joined the CDM.

The military junta has admitted that the coup’s administrative machinery has been hampered by the CDM’s non-violent activities.

Estimates say that 30 percent of government employees are taking part in the CDM. Even the Military Council admitted in a press conference that government work was being hampered because about 30 percent of government employees were involved in the CDM movement.

A teacher from a technical university in Irrawaddy Division said: “More than half of the teachers in our school are involved in the CDM movement. The total number of technical universities [involved in the CDM movement] is at least 50 to 55 percent.”

The Military Council government has told government employees to stop taking part in the CDM and to return to work. Some have returned to work because they were threatened with arrest, but officials have been unable to contact others.

Not only have government employees been joining the CDM movement, government soldiers have also been joining.

“More than two months after the military coup, more than 2,000 soldiers have joined the CDM movement since April. However, the number of soldiers taking part in the CDM is still small,” said Captain Nyi Thuta, a soldier who sets up CDMs. Soldiers from the rank of Private to Major have joined the CDM.

How do CDM members survive?

Those who have been involved in non-violent activities since the military coup have been facing hardships that have been going on for almost a year, according to people involved with the CDM movement.

“Since taking part in the CDM, there have been a lot of difficulties. If you cannot [cope with the difficulties], you have to go back to work. Later, I had to take on casual work to earn a living. We struggle to survive every month,” said a train attendant who was a CDM participant.

Former government employees now work as, amongst many other things, masonry workers, salesmen and taxi drivers.

“I miss my old life. But, at a time when our children are fighting for their lives, I do not want the title of teacher. They will not respect us anymore if I go back to work and I will not be able to change my reputation,” said a former CDM teacher who used to work at a technical college.

He also said that those involved in the CDM were worried about the junta arresting them. “If anyone provides information to the military [about them], CDM participants are arrested. I have had to move from my neighborhood. If they know you have taken part in a CDM action you will be arrested the next day, as soon as someone informs on you,” he added.

Some people are helping CDM participants and others are prioritizing offering them jobs. Despite this many CDM participants are still in need.

“We connect those who need workers with CDM participants and find jobs for them, but there are still CDM participants who need jobs,” said a member of the CDM in Yangon.

The National Unity Government (NUG) has been providing assistance to CDM participants and supporting them with the proceeds from the Spring Lottery, but it has not been able to provide sufficient financial assistance.

Was there a CDM Movement in 1988?

Author Maung Lwin Mon (Katha) writes that there was also a non-violent rebellion in the ’88 uprising against the military junta at that time.

He said: “Even though it was not called the CDM movement in 1988, there were protests in the streets, such as people marching in the streets, the chanting of slogans, students not going to school, people not going to work or people working but refusing to do anything that supported the government.”

Newspapers of the day even reported that civil servants were refusing to work for the government.

“I was in charge of the Foreign Trade Bank and I formed a bank union on the 30th of August. For more than a week after its formation, we only took care of the people’s financial affairs and all government payments were stopped,” said Maung Lwin Mon (Katha).

In those days, trains, bus services, hotels, gas stations, telecommunications infrastructure and newspapers were all state-owned and were shut down for nearly 20 days due to anti-government protests.

How long will the CDM last?

It has been almost a year since government officials set up the CDM to oppose the dictator Min Aung Hlaing.

Despite encountering many difficulties during that time CDM participants said they would continue to take part in the CDM until the dictatorship is deposed.

“It has been almost a year, and many difficulties have been overcome. There is nothing worse than that [we have been through]. We will have to fight until the dictatorship is over,” said a professor at a technological university.


Courtesy: MIZZIMA