Almost two years after the Myanmar military staged a new coup in Burma, we asked Me Me Khant to reflect on the recent wave of resistance led by women activists and unionists. Far from focusing only on fighting military rule, this movement also aims at dismantling both the patriarchy and Bamar supremacy (at the core of the mass murders and persecutions of Rohingyas).
Last year, a group of women in Sagaing Region in Burma marched under this banner as part of the ongoing resistance against the country’s brutal military dictatorship—specifically protesting the February 1, 2021 military coup. Many of them were young, college-age women in their baseball hats and ripped jeans. Some were older village ladies with their faces full of Thanakha (our traditional makeup) and wearing sarongs short to their mid-calves. Beyond the diversity, all of them looked fierce, eyes shining with vigor in defiance, clenching fists and raising three-fingered salutes (the revolution’s resistance symbol borrowed from Hunger Games). Indeed, since long before the coup, women activists and organizers in Burma have pushed the military—a patriarchal, misogynist, and violent institution made of thousands of armed men—to fear their courage and power.
Burma, officially known as Myanmar, has always been troubled with conflicts and political unrest. Owing to the colonial legacy of the British empire, the country has been in the world’s longest civil war for over seventy years since independence in 1948. Multiple ethnic minority groups are fighting against the military (or the Tatmadaw) of the majority ethnic Bamar and oftentimes, against each other in the country’s periphery regions. Today, about two dozen ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), in addition to about 250 loosely organized resistance groups, are in active clashes with the military.
While ethnic tensions date back to pre-colonial times, nearly all the violence and political instability in modern day Burma is perpetrated and caused by the country’s repressive military that has ruled the country with a tight iron grip for over fifty years.