Braving the junta’s brutal crackdowns, democracy activists in Myanmar staged protests over the weekend to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they attempt to repel the ongoing invasion of their country by Russia.
Dozens of young protesters holding pro-democracy banners and Ukrainian flags held flash-mob protests in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon, as well as in Dawei in Tanintharyi Region in the country’s deep south and Kachin State in the north on Sunday, as their civilian counterparts in Ukraine grabbed automatic rifles to push back the invading Russians.
Myanmar has been under a military dictatorship since February last year. Since then the whole country has been resisting the regime by all means at their disposal, from peaceful protest to armed struggle. So far, more than 1,500 civilians have been killed by the regime.
Until May last year, Ukraine had links with the Myanmar military, with arms exports and technology transfers. Despite this, the Russian invasion of the second-largest country in Europe last week has enraged Myanmar democracy activists, who feel a connection with Ukraine’s civilians as they take up arms to defend their land.
On the surface, Sunday’s protests in Myanmar were a denunciation of military bullying and an offer of encouragement from one group of civilians who have been fighting for freedom and democracy to another. Beyond the moral support, however, Myanmar and Ukraine have a common enemy. To the Ukrainians, Russian President Vladimir Putin is their invader. To the Myanmar people, Russia is a close ally of the Myanmar regime, supplying it with military hardware, among other kinds of support.
Raising a three-finger salute, Raymond, a member of the Democracy Movement Strike Committee (Dawei), said Myanmar’s anti-regime movement, known as the Spring Revolution, felt solidarity with the oppressed people of Ukraine.
“We are inspired by Ukraine’s war in defense of democracy. Like them, the Myanmar Spring Revolution will continue to fight for our freedom until we win,” he said in a video. Behind him a group of young activists held placards reading “Glory to Ukraine” and “Putin Must Fail.”
He said if Putin won in Ukraine, it would give a boost to the military regime in Myanmar and to the enemies of democracy everywhere.
“The world is a scary place right now. But we’re all in this together, and when people unite we can accomplish anything. Slava Ukraini! Democracy must prevail!” he said.
In Yangon, a more challenging environment for protesters, given the regime’s brutal crackdowns in the city, a group of young activists staged a flash mob protest, shouting anti-regime slogans and waving placards bearing slogans like “In Solidarity with Ukraine.” Fortunately, the protest was uninterrupted and protesters successfully dispersed.
In Kachin State in Myanmar’s north, more than a dozen ethnic Kachin young people held a rally to show their support for Ukraine. Some rally participants painted their faces in the Ukrainian flag while others held placards reading “Save Ukraine” and “Stop War.”
Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government said on Friday that it condemned the Russian war against Ukraine and its people, adding “Myanmar stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”
While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been globally condemned, the Myanmar regime has taken a different approach.
In an apparent attempt to show its gratitude to Russia for its support, the regime said Russia was acting to maintain its sovereignty and praised Moscow for what it called its role in balancing global power.
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