Myanmar Context

Updated December 16, 2021

Below is a compiled list of resources for learning about Myanmar and what else you can do to help the movement. 

What's Happening in Myanmar?

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military staged a coup d'etat, detaining leaders of the democratically elected ruling party. Civilians are fighting for their freedom and democracy while battling COVID-19 with restricted access to healthcare and critically low oxygen supply.

Watch this 5-min explainer video to learn about the military coup from February-April 2021

Background of the Military Coup

Before February 1, 2021, Myanmar was in the slow process of transitioning from a military dictatorship to a fully democratic government. An election was held in November 2020 and was observed to be free and fair overall. The winning party was the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The morning of February 1, the newly elected parliamentarians were set to meet for their first session. Suu Kyi and other top party officials were detained, and a military coup went into effect. The Myanmar military has been controlling Myanmar’s democratic transition, having written a constitution that allowed them to “legally” take back power any time they wanted. Knowing the NLD would push to remove the military from parliaments completely, the military used brute force to take control.

People immediately resisted the takeover. Across the country, pot and pan banging protests erupted, as the noise had traditionally been used to drive out evil spirits. Within days, protests were organized, first in major cities, and quickly spreading to smaller cities and townships. While many protesters are avid supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, there are many who simply see her as the lesser of two evils. The Myanmar military, known colloquially as the Tatmadaw, has terrorized ethnic minority groups in every part of the country for decades, and their return to absolute power represents violence, fear and trauma. A Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) was formed organically by health care professionals and quickly spread among other professional groups, including but not limited to educators, engineers, government administrators, truck drivers, banking staff, garment workers and students. Nominated for a Novel Peace Prize, this movement has effectively halted the normal functioning of life through peaceful boycotts of jobs and products associated with the military. The CDM has damaged the Tatmadaw’s plan to externally portray themselves as the paternalistic benefactor of Myanmar while internally draining the country’s natural resources for personal gain.

The military has often used propaganda to distance themselves from their atrocities, but they have shown their true colors to all of Myanmar and the world in the last few months. At first, their response to protesters was tempered, using water cannons and rubber bullets, but since March their response has escalated to all out tactical assaults on unarmed protestors and civilians. They are use death, injury, arson, torture, disappearances, detention and even bombs to silence and intimidate civilians. And yet, the movement persists. People are risking everything to protect their freedom and their dreams for the future.

Watch the War in Myanmar Explained by Behind the News

Scroll through a timeline of events since the coup.

Read more for a timeline of key events in Myanmar history preceding the Feb. 1 Coup.

Read A Year in Reflection: Students in Spring Revolution by Students for Free Burma.

COVID-19 Crisis

Myanmar's healthcare system is at a severe risk of collapse. The military has occupied health facilities across the nation, deliberately obstructed healthcare for injured civilians, and targeted and killed healthcare workers and students. 

Myanmar is also experiencing its third and most severe wave of COVID-19. Over July 2021, the number of daily cases has spiked from several hundred to as high as 7,000 despite limited testing. Over July, the number of cumulative deaths from COVID-19 has increased by nearly 160%. What does this look like on the ground? 

Patients are forced to sleep on streets.
Major hospitals are overcrowded and must turn away patients.
Unregulated self-medication and home quarantine are the only forms of management.
There is an extreme shortage of oxygen tanks, and civilians waiting in line for oxygen are shot by the military.

*Statistics were calculated using data reported on the Ministry of Health and Sports' COVID-19 Dashboard. These numbers are severely underreported due to limited testing and surveillance.
**This summary was created with the help of Sandra Mon.


Check out these pages to learn more about what's happening in Myanmar

Health + COVID-19

Business + Economy

How Are We Advocating?

Check out these pages to learn more about the strategies we are utilizing to advocate effectively for Myanmar.

Three Cuts Strategy

Cut the cash, cut the weapons, cut the impunity. But how? Through tough targeted sanctions on Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which is the single largest source of revenue for the military right now, imposing a global arms embargo, and by referring the Myanmar military to the ICC/ ICJ so that it can be held accountable for its surmounting crimes against humanity and genocide committed against many ethnic minorities within Burma, like the Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Shan, Mon, Rakhine, and Rohingya.

Push for the BURMA Bill

The Burma Bill, or BURMA Act of 2021, is an important piece of legislation which we have now successfully pushed for the passage of through the National Defense Authorization Act! After all the blood, sweat, and tears put into pushing for the passage of this legislation from March 2021-October 2022, the United States Advocacy Coalition for Myanmar (USACM) is moving onward to the next step, which is to follow up on the proper implementation of this bill with regards to fiscal spending and distribution. 

Follow USACM at @usacm3 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates. 

Watch the video below to see how we rallied and educated people to support the Burma Bill before it was passed.