I have a great inexpressible sadness as I follow the developing situation in Myanmar. Daily reports emerge of innocent people being killed on the streets. Citizens are arrested and detained on illegitimate charges. The military’s use of violence and force is creating a climate of fear.

The people of Myanmar find themselves in the middle of an incredible struggle against the Tatmadaw (military) who forcibly took control of the country on February 1. People woke to discover that those who had been democratically elected, including Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, had been arrested and detained.

Remarkably, since the military coup ordinary citizens have been using peaceful and non-violent means to protest. Millions have been on the streets in all of the major cities including Yangon and the capital Nay Pyi Daw. A civil disobedience movement (CDM) has emerged inspiring sustained street protests, the boycotting of military- affiliated businesses, and, most vitally, the refusal of public servants to comply with directives from the new regime. Teachers, doctors, engineers, electricity workers & bankers have all been striking in order to impact the military’s ability to function. This is all having a significant impact on the military and their ability to take control.

Sadly, despite the disciplined, non-violent and peaceful approach taken by citizens, the military are using flash bang grenades, smoke bombs, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disburse the protests. There are widespread reports of military patrols moving around the streets firing at people and buildings indiscriminately. To date over 80 innocent people have been killed. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), as of March 7th 1,790 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced by the military rulers. Journalists, civil society leaders and protest leaders are amongst those being particularly targeted. 

Unfortunately this is not a new experience for Myanmar. The country was under military rule for 50 years after General Ne Win seized power in 1962 until the first ever democratic elections in 2015. The positive political progress of recent years would now appear to be in jeopardy. But more than that, it is the hard-fought freedom of every individual Myanmar citizen, young or old, rich or poor, male or female, regardless of ethnicity, that is now at risk.

There are numerous reports of people saying that they would rather die than live under military rule. Many young people have seen what their parents have endured for a lifetime and they are not willing to accept that reality for their own futures.

On February 12 Cord signed a joint statement from 32 International Non-Government Organisations (iNGOs) working in Myanmar which can be read here. It outlines our deep concern about the military seizure of power and the potential short and long-term impact on the safety, rights and wellbeing of people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised.

Cord has been working in Myanmar for over 9 years and during that period there have been huge steps forward. It is clear that this is a time to redouble our efforts on behalf of the people of Myanmar not a time to step backwards.

As such Cord is launching the ‘March for Myanmar’ initiative. Throughout March we invite people to join us as we engage with and support the people of Myanmar:

1)      Pray – Prayer is powerful and can transform situations. We’d love to cover Myanmar and its people in prayer. As we experience lockdown in the UK, why not use your daily exercise to walk (or march!) and pray for Myanmar? We’ll be sending out regular prayer points on social media and our website.

2)      Stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar by wearing something red or a red ribbon. In Myanmar many citizens are wearing red to show that they support the protests against the military coup. Take a photo and share it on social media and tag Cord. Or, email your photos to us so that we can post them.

3)      Call on your MP – We know that in order for the UK Government to take action, they need to hear that UK citizens are concerned about this situation. We’d like our supporters to write to their MP and highlight what is happening in Myanmar. There are a number of actions that the UK Government can support to push for the reinstatement of the democratically elected government.

4)      Give to Cord’s Appeal – We are launching an appeal to support Cord’s ongoing work in Myanmar. The current violence and breakdown in democracy highlights more than ever the need for Cord’s work to support peaceful relationships and to transform the relationship between powerholders and communities. Please consider how you can support us financially.

Whilst we continue to hope and pray for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing situation in Myanmar, let us be pro-active and join with the Myanmar citizens who are currently struggling for their basic freedoms that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Peace

Andy Pask

Chief Executive Officer, Cord