‘We Believe We Will Be Victorious’: Views on Two Years Of Military Rule
By The Irrawaddy 1 February 2023
Feb. 1 has become one of the most fateful days in Myanmar’s political calendar since the early-hours coup on that day in 2021. The country has never been the same since, becoming mired in social and political turmoil sparked by the takeover.
Two years on, Myanmar is still reeling from the coup. On the positive side, the popular resistance against the regime remains unwavering and has spread despite the junta’s ongoing atrocities against civilians.
To mark the second anniversary of the coup on Wednesday, The Irrawaddy spoke to democracy activists, resistance leaders and observers to get their thoughts on Myanmar’s two-year struggle under military rule, and the way ahead.
Ko Bo Kyi
Joint secretary, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
“Myanmar after two years under military rule is a disaster due to the coup, which shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It has also pushed the country onto a revolutionary path. It’s a huge blow for the country as we have lost educated young people in the fight against the regime. The takeover brings nothing good to the country.
“On the other hand, after two years, the fight against the regime is gaining momentum and will only get bloodier. There is no hope for the junta. It’s hopeful for the people of Myanmar and the revolutionary forces.
“Among the positive things the revolution has brought over the past two years are an understanding of ethnic people and a mindfulness of federal democracy. Such things are big steps forward for the country’s national reconciliation.”
U Kyaw Zaw
Spokesperson, Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG)
“During the two years of our fight against the regime, the NUG has made significant developments in many sectors including militarily, and in international relations and politics. We now have control over more than half of the country after our coordinated attacks with ethnic armed organizations on junta targets.
“As more areas come under our control, we are providing education and health services there, as well as administrative and judicial services. We have opened more than 4,000 schools and 55 hospitals on the ground in those areas. The NUG administration is in effect in 80 townships and we are expanding to the district level. The judicial system will follow.
“As the NUG has vowed that 2023 will be a decisive year in the fight against the junta, we are trying hard to bring change. We believe we will be victorious. At the same time, you will see more systematic administration and rule of law in 2023.”
Former US ambassador to Myanmar
(Photo: The Irrawaddy)
“The military has reversed virtually all of the previous decade’s reforms and is waging war in a brutal, indiscriminate fashion against the Myanmar people, all to hold onto power. The Myanmar people have responded in heroic fashion, rising up against the military with incredible courage and resilience and insisting that they will not accept the military’s desire to turn the country back to the dark days of the past.
“The future is uncertain, but what is promising is that people from many different communities are now working together to defeat the coup, and in that process they are also tackling decades-old prejudices and taking important steps to build trust among themselves.
“I understand that many of you are frustrated by the lack of international attention to your plight and inadequate support you have received from the international community. All I can say is that there are many people around the world who have been inspired by your struggle and who are looking for ways every day to generate more attention and support for your effort.”
Phado Saw Taw Nee
Karen National Union communications chief
“Over the two years, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has tried to gain legitimacy but he has failed, as there is no space for him even at the regional level, in ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. He is a loser on all fronts, locally and internationally.
“The revolution against him is occurring not only in Karen State but across the whole country. It has now far passed the infantry stage. The resistance groups are now able to collaborate with each other [to lauch attacks on the junta]. That’s the most remarkable thing; we haven’t seen such a thing in the history of Myanmar’s 70 years of armed struggle.
“Min Aung Hlaing will try desperate moves, including holding an election, this year as he is running out of options. Our priority has to be how to get rid of them from this Earth! I dare to say there will be changes this year militarily and politically.”
Dr. Miemie Winn Byrd
Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies
(Photo: The Irrawaddy)
“The country was left with both economic and political uncertainties following the coup. A growing dissatisfaction and defiance of the military by the general public only further added uncertainty to the economy.
“As long as the military continues to stay in power, it is almost impossible for many sectors of the economy to become fully productive again. It is imperative that the international community continue to put pressure on the junta to restore democracy so that the civilian-led democratic government can do its part in reversing current economic woes.
“In order for the Myanmar resistance coalition to reach tipping point, faster the coalition is able to come together, faster they will be able to reach tipping point. The coalition also needs to prioritize and adequately resource intel operations and the strategic communication line of effort.”
Khun Be Du
Chairperson of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF)
(Photo: The Irrawaddy)
“Since its formation following the coup, the KNDF has become battle-hardened. Fighting continues against regime troops in Kayah State.
“Over the two years, we have been able to collaborate with other ethnic armed groups and People’s Defense Force [PDF] groups in other areas.
“On the political front, we have decided to join other forces to build a federal union in Myanmar. We will work hard for it in 2023 either by armed struggle or popular support.”
Ma Nilar Thein
Veteran democracy activist and widow of activist Ko Jimmy, who was hanged by the regime
“It has been two years since the Myanmar military seized control of the country. The past two years saw an important shift in our country. The Civil Disobedience Movement [CDM] and Generation-Z played powerful roles to applause from the international community. The CDM proved [able] to stall junta mechanisms, and Generation-Z provided a leadership role [in the resistance movement against the regime]. People’s Defense Forces emerged as people sought to defend themselves after the Myanmar military carried out brutal crackdowns on peaceful rallies.
“Our citizens at home and abroad demonstrated strong solidarity against military rule with their hearts linked together. International diplomatic circles have not only expressed concern but started to take action regarding the Myanmar issue. So, I think if all forces are unified, things will take shape in 2023. It is crucial that democracy and federalism forces and all the ethnicities join hands in this fight.
“I vow to turn the sorrow from the deaths of all of our comrades—including Ko Jimmy and those who died behind closed doors in interrogation centers, in arson attacks on villages, and in clashes in forests—to strength and continue to fight until this revolution wins.”
Dr. Tayzar San
Anti-regime protest leader
“The military mistakenly believed their coup would succeed as they have guns. They underestimated the people. Now, two years on, they still can’t control the country as the revolution against them is in full swing. Politically, now is a time of national unity unlike any we have seen before, as the various forces against the regime have become one. I have to say it’s a very remarkable result. At the same time, the regime is losing control day by day—take Upper Myanmar for example.
“We have to work harder, as the regime won’t step down easily. We already and firmly believe we will win. The world also needs to believe it. To earn their trust, we have to be unified in voice and action in our fight against the regime in 2023.”