Eight months after the bloody military coup, we interviewed Tincher Sunley, a Burmese grassroots activist who described the situation in his country today. Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia, a former British colony with decades of political instability and strategic emphasis on China’s natural resources and its access to the Indian Ocean, which will give further economic impetus to its southern region. In the Biden era, the United States aimed at its strategic rival, the Asian Company, with the cynical discourse of “democracy” aimed at restoring the value of international institutions. President Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is the party that won the November 2020 election, which was overthrown by a coup, but in previous years it ruled alongside the military and was previously complicit in crimes against ethnic minorities. He is now part of the military junta, the opposition front of the “National Unity Government” (NUG), and they rely on this controversy of central powers, which is being transformed into imperialism in the form of “diplomacy”: ONU. The real opposition to the coup arose as young people fighting in the streets against military tanks, their workers in factories and textile workshops went on strike.
Can you tell us a little bit about the current situation in Myanmar?
So far the military has arrested more than 8000 civilians across the country and killed 1,100. More troops and police have joined the movement since the “defensive war.” For the same reason, the regime increased attacks on civilians, especially in central Myanmar and “ethnic areas”, where they used airstrikes and attacked various villages, burning houses and killing their own citizens. They are crimes against humanity, war crimes.
With the word “defensive war”, the call to fight the military of minorities became known as the Coalition Against the Conspiracy of Government of National Unity (NUG for short). The aim of this political front, largely pro-Western parties, will be to put intense pressure on the United Nations to negotiate with the military junta under the best possible conditions. Now, is it correct that “defensive warfare” is based on guerrillas created by different ethnic groups?
There are more than 100 “ethnic forces” in the country, with more than 30 large forces in various parts of the country and each controlling its territory. So what NUG really does when it assembles a “People’s Defense Army” is unite its own army. It is not because the existing forces are attached to them that they have their own demands, they do not want to occupy or occupy other areas, they are only defending their own territories because they are free.
The activities of the NUG are mainly in the Burmese majority area, not in the “ethnic areas” because the forces already representing those ethnic groups already exist. What we see is that the NUG is collaborating with them, but that does not mean they are part of the NUG.
What is the situation of the working class?
The leaders of the movement are being persecuted by the military junta. After 2010, the first election in the history of Myanmar, we had some limited freedom to organize trade unions, student unions, agricultural unions and trade unions, and the movement became stronger and stronger. Trade union leaders have launched a massive strike in the country’s largest city, Yangon. Thousands of workers, most of them women, took to the streets, which greatly encouraged us and unleashed the massive strikes that followed. They are the backbone and they are the ones who stand in front of the military junta. They showed us the way and joined the apparently illegal movement.
But the point is that even though most of us belong to the working class, we have not reached the dominant media and we have no recognition. That is why many military groups are fighting for greater visibility and to show their struggles because they are suffering so much under military rule.
What can you say about the status of women?
In the picture behind me is a woman lifting LongThis is what we call this custom clothing used to cover the feet. Women use it as a flag, which is very shocking because in Myanmar there is a huge ban on women’s products, women’s clothing: all of these are considered “dirty”. Now that we women break it down, we use our clothes as a flag. The movement gave morale to more than 50% of women in the country. Today women go on almost daily strikes.
The Rohingya are an Islamic minority that has been persecuted and massacred for decades by the Burmese nationalist military and civilians. In 2017, the military brutally attacked these minorities in the northwestern state of Rakhine. The attack was a genocide that led to the flight of 750,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh, while 25,000 were killed. Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLT at the time, was a state councilor in a weak bourgeois democratic government, and his silence in those actions was a clear sign of security from the military. What situation are the Rohingya people in now?
After 4 years of fighting and genocide against them, none of the perpetrators paid for these crimes. The facts reached the media around the world but what happened? After 4 years nothing has happened and the Rohingya are still homeless (N.R., Continue to live in refugee camps and their suffering continues. After the coup their confidence fell further because their country was not safe for them. The international community defeated the Rohingya people.
Now the military is committing the same crimes against all the people of Myanmar, of course they are doing 10 times worse for the Rohingya, but they are killing us, they are using snipers, airstrikes, harassing civilians using heavy weapons. International actors can stop the regime. They make demands and declarations and talk, but what happened? The army kills my friends and they arrest them. I miss my friends and my family. My country is a graveyard.
Minorities have fought against the same companies for the past 70 years. Now a lot of young people and Burmese people have joined them and we are trying to overthrow the regime. NUG is part of the leadership of this process, but they are not important, the youth, farmers and workers are at the center of this movement. If NUG is not doing a good job we can look for other leaders.
Do you think military rule came to power through a coup?
What we see is that the conspiracy has not yet been resolved because we have not surrendered to it, because the opposition is still strong. The military has not yet been able to form their own administration, and they cannot command communities and cities because the people are revolting against it.
Who controls the main economic springs of the country?
The Board includes international investment and financial institutions operating in partnership with the Board. They are directly or indirectly benefiting from the crimes committed in Myanmar, so we are pressuring the international community to impose sanctions on those who do business with the regime.
Myanmar’s economy is collapsing, and our currency is depreciating to an all – time high in history. While the ruling party declares that they are the rulers of the country, the opposition forces are trying to defeat them. The union leaders are demanding sanctions that will affect them, they may lose their jobs but they do not care. The economy is collapsing, and it is intentional because the people of Myanmar are trying to show that they do not have the capacity to rule the country.
The board basically has the support of Russia and China. There are other countries selling arms to you, and we are trying to stop it.
What do you think about the United Nations?
People in Myanmar say they are “not united”. We think they have failed us because we expected them to intervene. In the first weeks after the coup, many gathered outside the UN offices in the country, not even coming out to explain what was going on, and they were not worried.
The UN in the guise of “humanitarian missions” or some “relief projects”. We are very concerned that we may start working with the governing body. It is a way of giving legitimacy to the governing body as the government of the country. We care so much, we see they can do it, so we condemn what they have to do, it doesn’t help us.
People lost faith in the UN and international means, and the international community failed the people of Myanmar.
Thank you so much for giving us this interview. Do you want to add something else?
Yes, one last thing. I would like to say that we stand in solidarity with all the peoples of the oppressed and marginalized world in different communities such as Afghanistan or Argentina. We are wary of governments, but we always stand united with different people and share their struggle.
Video Editing: Matt Pedernara