Members of the Yangon University Teachers' Association hold up the three-finger salute in protest of the military coup on February 5. (Frontier)
Members of the Yangon University Teachers' Association strike in solidarity with the civil disobedience campaign against military rule on February 5. (Frontier)

NLD backs anti-coup campaign as civil servants rally in Nay Pyi Taw

The National League for Democracy has promised to support any workers fired for opposing the coup, as thousands of government staff and students join a growing civil disobedience campaign.

By FRONTIER

The National League for Democracy has backed Myanmar’s growing civil disobedience movement, promising to support any workers who are fired for taking part in the anti-coup campaign.

Throughout the day more government staff around the country stopped work to protest against the coup, while many others took photos outside their offices giving three-finger salutes and wearing red ribbons to oppose military rule.

“State sovereignty and the people’s power have been taken away through unlawful means,” the NLD said in a statement issued this evening. “They have to be restored through peaceful, non-violent and disobedient means.”

The party also said it would “support and take responsibility for those who are sacked because of their participation” in the civil disobedience movement, which was launched by government medical workers on Tuesday.

As Frontier reported this morning, staff at state hospitals and medical departments who have refused to work are reporting harassment from their bosses and police scrutiny.

As of today, a large portion of staff are refusing to go to work at 91 state hospitals and more than two dozen medical colleges and government health departments in close to 80 towns across Myanmar, according to the campaign’s Facebook page, which has more than 200,000 followers. They have been joined in their campaign by state schoolteachers from multiple education unions and staff at state carrier Myanmar National Airlines.

Students, teachers join movement

Today more teachers and students joined the movement, with members of the Yangon University Teachers’ Association stopping work.

Several hundred teachers and students also protested at Dagon University on Yangon’s outskirts, displaying a three-finger salute borrowed from the Hunger Games films via Thailand’s democracy movements, and singing a popular revolution song.

“As a citizen, I cannot accept this military coup at all,” lecturer Daw Win Win Maw said. “We have to resist this dictatorship.”

Marching around the university’s compound, students chanted “Long live Amay (mother) Suu” and carried red flags. “We will not let our generation suffer under this kind of military dictatorship,” said Ko Min Sithu, a student. 

Students at Yangon University’s Department of International Relations also announced they would refuse to study under military rule, and demanded a “genuine democratic education system”.

Most of those who have joined the campaign are final year and second year honours students.

“We have decided to go on strike because we do not trust the military’s slave education system,” said one student, who asked not to be named. “You will not be able to speak freely and you will be brainwashed by their propaganda.”

“I urge teachers and other civil servants to stand firm in the Civil Disobedience Movement, which will bring an end to the military regime,” he said.

He added that the students expect their counterparts across the country to join the fight against military rule. “We are ready to help them as much as we can.”

Red Ribbon campaign

But some civil servants are taking a different approach, by continuing to work while wearing red ribbons to oppose the coup and military dictatorship.

This morning, around 500 staff across five ministries in Nay Pyi Taw stopped work briefly to take photographs of themselves wearing red ribbons, in the first sign that the anti-coup movement is gaining ground within ministries in the capital. 

At the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, staff chanted, “Down with the dictatorship”.

“We want to return to democracy; we do not want the coup,” said one of about 50 participants at the Ministry of Electricity and Energy.

An assistant director at the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs said the public servants had taken a risk by staging the rally but did so because they wanted to stand with the people.

“We don’t want future generations growing up under a military regime,” he said.

Some of the public servants wearing red ribbons said their workplaces were operating normally for now, but they were considering escalating their opposition to the coup by stopping work completely.

“This is just a first step to demonstrate our stand and our attitude. Later, if necessary, we are ready to join the civil disobedience campaign,” said a public servant, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. ­– Additional reporting by AFP

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