JURIST EXCLUSIVE – Myanmar law students are reporting for JURIST on challenges to the rule of law in their country under the military junta that deposed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February. For privacy and security reasons we are withholding this law student’s name and institutional affiliation. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
Today, September 7, Acting NUG President Duwa Lashi La announced everyone’s long-waited “D-Day”, the National Unity Government’s declaration of “defensive war” against the military junta. In his speech Tuesday morning MMT, the Acting President explained that the D-Day declaration was made out of necessity. The “defensive war” label is very important because the military junta waged war against unarmed innocent Myanmar civilians in February [when the military overthrew the civilian government]. Because no serious and effective action has since been taken against the cruel military by any international mechanism, we must save ourselves.
As soon as I heard this declaration, I thought NUG has fully supplied weapons to PDF [People’s Defense Force militias] and may be ready for actual war, so I contacted a CDM [Civil Disobedience Movement] staff in Karen with whom I’ve kept in touch since March. That person said that they haven’t gotten any support from NUG yet and in fact the military junta is sending forces to their town to oppress PDF and CDM staffs more. The staff also said “I hope NUG has a reasonable plan before they made this announcement. Or else, we just suffer more after such speech.” Honestly, I do hope NUG has excellent plans; we all expect that.
So now NUG has declared “D-Day” but this doesn’t mean every Myanmar city will become a battlefield immediately. In big cities like Mandalay and Yangon, nothing major is happening yet. However, in states Kachin and Karen where there are active EAOs [Ethnic Armed Organizations] already opposing the junta, war will become more and more severe. By the end of September and October, there may be big movements in city centers too. When Myanmar’s rainy season ends and we approach winter, the situation may get more tense.
This morning at 9 am, the streets in Mandalay city center were more crowded than other days. There were slight traffic-jams and car accidents in some places because people are very alarmed by the declaration of defensive war and many cars and bikes rushed to markets to buy food and other things. At this rate, the price of basic necessities might go up, poor people may not afford to buy food and essential needs might be out of stock. But till now, people are managing this situation well and share awareness to each other not to raise the prices and not to do panic buying. After 8 months, majority of Myanmar people are getting the hang of the revolution. We can’t win this by staying alive alone. We have to help each other.
The Impact of the Declaration
Other than unsystematic responses like panic buying, the declaration reminds people to focus on the revolution more. Rather than being overwhelming with expectations and worries, we must all be prepared to take actions like monitoring the movements of the military junta and informing PDF in time, and opening our doors for PDF who take to the streets for guerrilla warfare.
How our defensive war takes place in states and city centers may differ. In city centers, destroying the property owned by the military juntas, surprise attacks when juntas drive around the towns at night and bombing their military trucks and temporary camps (near banks and schools) are more likely to take place. Other than attacking military juntas face to face, indirect attacks against their food and weapon supply like what happened in Magway Division today may prove very effective too. Meanwhile, urban area PDFs are warning young men to be more careful because they may be abducted and used as human shields by the military.
Danger of Misleading Information
Some news pages here are already overstating facts and this can cause more worries for the public. So, many young people are reminding older Myanmar internet users (between ages 40-60) to differentiate fake news and facts. Many civilians play a role in urban warfare; we must not disclose any information about PDF’s location and activities nearby. Such news can be used by military juntas to track down our people and plans.
Also, we cannot forget how juntas will use psychological warfare like spreading fake news about the deaths of PDF members to make people depressed and fake news about how PDF wins a war and controls an area to make people let their guard down and underestimate the strength of the enemies. So, we must be very careful about internet information we consume daily. We can only rely on authentic news pages and NUG official accounts. Regarding news from Kachin and Karen states, the following news pages are reliable.
4. https://www.facebook.com/Kokang311 (MNDAA, မုံးကိုး)
Also, internet and Wi-fi can be cut off by the junta any minute. If phone line and SMS messages are still available, we’re used to sharing news with SMS chains. We can also prepare radio for information. As for personal emergency preparations, we have our emergency bags with all necessities (pads, clothes, medicines, dry food) and self-defense materials (like knife, Molotov, pepper spray) nearby because we have to be well-prepared to move from place to place when necessary. Carrying these stuffs is not just for individual use; we can share these with anyone who are in need.
Everyone is Useful in this Revolution
People who can shoot guns are not the only ones useful in this defensive war. People of all ages, genders and professions have many things they can contribute. Anyone who learns basic emergency medical aid can be a doctor in war. Anyone who can cook can be a food supplier. Anyone can be a reliable informant for the PDF. Even staying at home without disclosing any sensitive information is very helpful.
As law students, we can keep the international community updated about our ground situation. We will keep on speaking out about this defensive war and speaking up for the recognition of the NUG as the official government of Myanmar so that the rule of law in our country can be restored.
Our revolution shall triumph.