On the second anniversary of the military coup on February 1, the people of Myanmar participated in a widely-observed silent strike. Organised by the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM) and the Global Strike Coordination Body, and planned and promoted online, the Silent Strike Movement called on people across the country to shut their businesses and stay at home from 10 am to 3 pm. This action was supported by the International Trade Union Confederation and unions globally.
Silent strikes have been staged multiple times since the coup as a display of people power, proving the military has no control over the country and the people. Pro-democracy activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi says, “The main message of the silent strike is to honour the fallen heroes and heroines and to reclaim the public space as our own.”
Participating in this non-violent demonstration is not without danger. In 2022, more than 200 people were detained for their support of the silent strike on Facebook, facing possible charges of terrorism, incitement and violating the electronic communications law.
The strike on this year successfully turned cities and townships into ghost towns, with images from social media showing photos of empty markets, empty roads, and shopping malls regardless of the threats from the military. Unionists worldwide posted photos with the solidarity poster “We stand with the Myanmar People’s Silent Strike”
On the anniversary the junta announced an extension to the nationwide state of emergency for another six months, however, the Myanmar people’s resistance is going strong and they continue to participate in any way they can to show their disapproval of the military regime.
Australian Sanctions – a good start, but further urgent action is still needed.
On the same day, the Australian Government finally imposed autonomous sanctions on 16 junta officials, including Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing, and on 2 entities, the military conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Ltd (MEHL).
Australia’s long overdue sanctions are welcomed by the national coalition, the Myanmar Campaign Network, however Australian sanctions only account for approximately 5% of international sanctions action on Myanmar.
Myanmar Campaign Network and activists internationally call on the Australian Government to sanction high-value targets such as state-owned enterprises in offshore gas projects and mining; the aviation fuel supply chain; the banking sector; and those who supply arms and equipment to the junta.
State-owned enterprises like Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and Myanmar Mining Enterprise 1 and 2 (ME1, ME2) have direct business relationships with MEHL and MEC, and their bank accounts have been under the control of the Myanmar military since the coup. These entities funnel billions of dollars to the junta annually and there are Australian citizens involved with resource companies still active in Myanmar.
Australia has shown it can act swiftly, issuing extensive sanctions on human rights abusers in Russia and Iran, and must continue to take further urgent decisive action in line with our international allies to cut the flow of revenue to the junta, and to hold human rights abusers to account.