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People in Revolt: The State of the Anti-Military Movement in Myanmar

Monday, March 27, 2023 at 9:30am to 4:00pm

Taylor Room (Statler Hotel); Kahin Center, See description for details

Learn about the state of the anti-military movement in Myanmar from an expert panel, hosted by the Cornell University Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) in both English and Burmese on March 27, 2023. Featured speakers will include members of the National Unity Government of Myanmar and a former senior State Department official. The morning panel discussion (9:30 am to 12:00 pm) will be conducted in English and the afternoon panel discussion (1:30 pm to 4:00 pm) will be in Burmese language.  

The morning panel will be held in the Taylor Room, Statler Hotel, and the afternoon panel will be held at the Kahin Center. Participants are also welcome to join by Zoom. 

This event is sponsored by the Southeast Asia Program (SEAP), the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Department of Government, the Department of Asian Studies, the Berger Program, and the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. This event is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education as part of SEAP’s designation as a National Resource Center. 

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military removed the country’s democratically re-elected government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from office in a coup d’état. By April of that year, the military had formed the State Administrative Council (SAC) to rule the country. In response, millions of ordinary people of Myanmar have risen up against the SAC and the renewed imposition of military rule. The ensuing crackdown from the SAC has thrown a once fledgling democracy into chaos. Since the coup, the Myanmar military and police have reportedly killed thousands of civilians and have arbitrarily detained thousands more. As conflict has erupted across the country, civilian populations have been bombed, properties have been razed, and hundreds of thousands of people are internally displaced. The junta has also failed to hold the new elections it had promised.  

Amidst the continuing spring revolution and the civil disobedience movement, the National Unity Government (NUG) was formed on April 16, 2021 by a group of elected lawmakers and members of the parliament deposed by the coup, ethnic representatives and civil society activists. The NUG functions as a parallel government, and opposes the military by seeking support from Ethnic Armed Groups (EAOs) across Myanmar and by seeking support domestically and abroad. The NUG’s vision of state and nation building is designed to be more inclusive and representative of popular demands than the SAC junta, and seeks to provide the country’s many ethnic minority groups what they have demanded since independence. The NUG has also created People’s Defense Force (PDF) to protect civilians from military attacks. 

The international community has condemned the violence perpetrated by the Myanmar military against its own civilians. Most recently, on December 21, 2022 the U.N. Security Council adopted a historic resolution on Myanmar denouncing the human rights violations carried out by the Myanmar military government since the coup d’état. In the United States, President Biden signed the Burma Act into law on December 23, 2022 to implement increased pressure on the military and provide more aid to the people of Myanmar.  

As the violence in Myanmar and the war in Ukraine make clear, the rise of autocratic leaders and their actions pose a threat to democracy and fundamental freedoms around the world. The esteemed speakers in both panels will discuss how the anti-military movement formed and grew into a nationwide uprising, how this dissent is sustained, and what this movement envisions for a new Myanmar. 

Featured Speakers will include: 

U Moe Zaw Oo, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, National Unity Government 

U Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations 

Ms. Priscilla Clapp, Senior Advisor to the United States Institute of Peace; and former Chief of Mission in Burma from 1999-2002 


May Sabe Phyu, Visiting Fellow, Cornell University Law School 

Magnus Fiskesjö, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University  

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