Burma’s streets are silent on International Human Rights Day following a week of highly visible barbaric violence perpetrated by the nation’s discredited security forces.
For the second time since the coup, the nation came together in almost unanimous solidarity to observe a “silent strike”, closing businesses and staying at home in remembrance of the tens of thousands killed, tortured, and displaced since February.
“It looks as if the silent strike has been 90 percent successful throughout the country. Shops, markets, and street vendors refused to open for business today. All classes of people are participating in today’s strike,” said Thet Swe Win, Executive Director of Synergy Social Cohesion Group, a Yangon-based “social harmony organization”.
Thet Swe Win told DVB that “silence is the loudest shout” has become a term familiar to the anti-coup movement; the regime, according to him, is terrified of the silent strike succeeding.
The junta’s predictably nonsensical knee-jerk reaction to the strike suggests that this may be so.
“We heard last night that the regime had intimidated people into leaving their homes, and had paid pro-military people to disrupt the movement without success. This is down to their fear of revolutionaries,” Thet Swe Win said.
DVB received reports that business owners in Magway, Pathein, and Yangon had yesterday been told by troops that they would be charged with sedition if failing to open shops today.
In towns and villages across the country, military trucks last night patrolled streets with loud speakers—in many cases past midnight—reassuring citizens that soldiers would “protect them during the silent strike” if they chose to venture outside.
The threats appear to have failed. Reports coming in from before the strike’s allotted start time of 10 a.m. show towns in complete desolation.
“Silent Strike proves that the people have not gone cold on the idea of revolution, despite the less evident displays of the revolutionary movements in cities due to the circumstances.”
Originally an incredulous reaction to deepening army crackdowns, the first silent strike was held on March 24. Eight and a half months on, today’s protests appear to be even more comprehensive; the junta may have forced people into greater silence, but its sociopathic rule since March has achieved nothing but its comprehensive alienation from a Burmese people never more united.
Today’s strike, which coincided with International Human Rights Day, was arranged spontaneously and decentrally and supported by Burma’s strike leaders and the National Unity Government’s Ministry of Human Rights.
“We called on people to strike from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but everything shut down since the early morning—even I myself feel shocked at the unity of the people. If we are united in this way, our revolution will prevail,” protest leader Ma Khin Sandar told the media.
“We need to send a message to the world that Myanmar’s human rights violations are at their worst.”
In a typically bizarre attempt to sew the seeds of racial and religious hatred, the military’s proxy party, the USDP, yesterday published a statement on social media stating that, “as December 10… is a day of prayer in the Islamic faith”, by marking today as a day of silence protestors “may burden other religions”. To avoid such inconveniences, the USDP said, people must go about their business as usual.
“As is always the military’s intent, such messages strive to create religious conflict. The people are undisturbed and overcome issues together. No matter how much they try and disrupt things, today’s movement is a complete success,” said Thet Swe Win.
Social media was today awash with scenes of emptiness. People from around the world also dressed in black (something that is currently all but outlawed in Burma) and raised three figures to raise awareness.
The NUG’s Minister of Human Rights, Aung Myo Min, posted images of Rohingya citizens participating in today’s movement, one man holding a sign reading: “Regain the Human Rights that we lost with this revolution”.
The military, which never enjoys being outed as a failed institution, made sure that it exerted some small amount of control on today’s proceedings. Photos suggest that a small pro-junta protest groups of roughly 50 people briefly paraded down the Hledan stretch of Yangon’s central Pyay Road and in front of Yangon Town Hall, presumably stopping after earning their pay.
In the highly militarized township of Mingalardon, it was reported that troops forced market holders to return to work at around 1 p.m. after threatening that licences would be terminated and never returned if failing to open stalls.