Myanmar has been engulfed in protests since February 1, when army general Min Aung Hlaing seized control of the government in a military coup. Since then, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have rallied across the country, demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the restoration of civilian rule.
The military justified the takeover with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the November 2020 election that returned Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power. General Hlaing promised to hold new elections in a year and hand over power to the winners. However, the continuing demonstrations across the country have met with increasingly violent response from the military which has imposed a curfew in several townships, and banned gatherings of more than five people to try to stamp out the growing protests.
In the face of internet outages, heavy military presence, nighttime raids and arrests, protestors began banging pots and pans and honking horns nightly to show their solidarity with the opposition Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) sweeping the country, as well as making a three-fingered salute. Originally from Suzanne Collins’s dystopian young adult series The Hunger Games—about a rebellion against an authoritarian regime—the hand gesture has become a symbol of the resistance, both among crowds of protestors and in the art inspired by the movement.
Support for the protests has come from a broad range of sectors across Myanmar society. Artists are using their skills to share the message of the CDM movement with the world. Staff at 70 hospitals and medical departments all across the country have stopped working in support of the movement. Teachers and some government workers have also joined, saying they will not work for the authorities unless the elected government is restored. Myanmar’s main labor unions launched a nationwide strike March 8 as mass protests — and the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators — intensified.
The power grab has also triggered widespread international condemnation. However, neighboring countries’ calls for restraint and offers to help Myanmar resolve the crisis have thus far gone unheeded as security forces opened fire with live rounds on protestors the day following their outreach. As of Saturday, more than 1,700 protestors have been detained –many of them teachers and university students– and more than 50 people have been killed at demonstrations thus far.
In this Current Event, we will explore the context and history of the Myanmar coup and resistance along with many resources you can use to foster meaningful discussion with your students about this global current event.
- What is the political history of Myanmar (Burma)? What bearing does it have on the present state of affairs?
- Why has the military in Myanmar seized power?
- What has happened as a result of the military coup on Feb. 1st?
- What do the protestors want, and what tools are they using to undermine the military regime?
- What is civil disobedience and how might it affect change in Myanmar?
- How are the protests in Myanmar similar and different to others taking place in Southeast Asia in the last year?
Myanmar protestors threatened with 20 years in jail (30 mins)
Coup Fighters: Myanmar’s Persistent Protesters (20 mins)
Background & History of Myanmar (Burma):
- Timeline of events in Myanmar since February 1 Coup — Aljazeera
Myanmar’s Troubled History: Coups, Military Rule, and Ethnic Conflict — Council on Foreign Relations
Myanmar coup: how the military has held onto power for 60 years – The Conversation
Myanmar country profile — BBC News
- To understand post-coup Myanmar, look to its history of popular resistance — not sanctions, Brookings, Feb. 9, 2021
History May Not Repeat Itself In Myanmar Military Coup, Forbes, Feb. 1, 2021
Myanmar: End Lethal Force Against Protesters, Human Rights Watch, Mar. 3, 2021
The World Has Failed Myanmar, So Now Its Youth Are Stepping Up, Time, Mar. 4, 2021
- Art For Freedom – Myanmar Artists Against Military Coup
- Myanmar Fine Art Collective
- Myanmar’s anti-coup protests from a bird’s eye view (Pictures) — Reuters
- Myanmar’s artists fight back after coup — DW
Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom:
- Cartoons for the Classroom– Understanding Political Cartoons
- How To Analyze a Political Cartoon
- Political Cartoon Analysis
- Classroom Resource: Why Myanmar’s military overthrew the nation’s democratically-elected government — PBS Newshour Extra, grades 6-12
- Lesson Plan Booster: History of the Coup — Education World, grades 9-12
10 things you need to know to stop a coup — Waging Nonviolence, grades 9-12
- Civil Disobedience: Is it ever ok to break the law? — grades 9-12
- The Power to Change the World: a Unit on Student Activism in History and Today — The New York Times
- Taking it to the Streets: a Year of Global Protests — Brown University
Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):
Media Literacy Resources – Newseum
News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense
Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming
Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons