Indigenous voices at the heart of resistance in Burma

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Group photo of about 25 children and youth. Each wears a cylindrical paper hat on their head, some with the word
Indigenous Karen youth demonstrators in Mutraw call for federal democracy. Credit: KESAN

On February 1, 2021, the military in Burma attempted a coup d’état – partially taking control of the country and trampling Burma’s fragile democracy in the process.

What’s happened in Burma since the attempted coup?

For the past year, people have been using protests, public education and boycotts to resist the military’s efforts to take over the country. Violent attacks against protestors have become common and military assaults in Indigenous communities have intensified. The death toll has skyrocketed and thousands have been wounded.

In spite of this, millions of activists from all corners of the country are united to resist a return to military rule and ensure the brutal and ongoing attempted coup is not successful.

Indigenous voices at the heart of the resistance in Burma

The unity among activists we see today in opposition to the military did not always exist in Burma.

Indigenous communities in Burma have long been experiencing military brutality. But before the attempted coup, some people in central Burma downplayed, and even dismissed, reports of the military’s atrocities against Indigenous communities. Following the attempted coup, those in central urban areas found those atrocities happening in their own backyards for the first time.

Still, at first many people from Burma’s ethnic Bamar majority called for a return to the pre-coup status quo. While this would mean an end to violence in the streets of central Burma, returning to the status quo would involve repression of – and violence against – the country’s diverse Indigenous populations.

But Indigenous activists, including Inter Pares’ counterparts, refused to let inequalities of past struggles repeat themselves. They claimed space at the heart of the resistance. They added their voices to public discourse and continue to put forward their vision for a new future – one with Indigenous rights and equality at its core. As the demonstrations continue, their call has spread throughout the country, becoming a core national demand.

What started as a call to preserve the status quo has evolved into political action to build a country where everyone is included.

How can you support activists' work in Burma?


Send a letter to your Member of Parliament

Find your MP and their contact info and use the text we provide below to email your Member of Parliament asking that the Government of Canada impose sanctions targeting gas and oil revenue and aviation fuel.

Dear [YOUR MP],

As a constituent, I am writing to thank you for your support of the February 1 unanimous motion on Burma.

February 1, the one-year anniversary of the day the military began their violent and ongoing attempted coup, was a difficult day for many. It was heartening to see Canadian parliamentarians’ solidarity with the people of Burma, many of whom have been struggling and resisting for far longer than one year.

I am supportive of the additional sanctions Canada has imposed against Burma's military. But one of the military’s largest revenue sources remains unrestricted: the oil and gas industry. This source of revenue enables them to continue to bomb villages, execute protesters, and wage war against their own people. 

People within Burma and around the world have called on governments to block the regime's access to oil and gas revenue. These sanctions would greatly support the people of Burma in their efforts toward democracy and justice.

There is also a specific need to sanction aviation fuel. Over the past year, there has been a steady increase in the military’s use of its air force to indiscriminately bomb villages, killing and injuring civilians, destroying homes, schools and churches, and forcing thousands to flee into hiding.

When will Canada impose sanctions targeting gas and oil revenue and aviation fuel? 

Thank you,



Our counterparts in Burma create spaces where people from different Indigenous groups can come together to share experiences and build a common vision for a future in which their rights and cultures are respected. United, their message to the military is loud and clear: you messed with the wrong generation.

You can help amplify the voices of Indigenous people in Burma by making a gift to Inter Pares today. Donate now.

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Comments (2)

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  • Elizabeth Shepherd
    Do not provide Aviation Fuel to the Myanmar Junta who are bombing the Myanmar People
  • Janis Belgum
    Block the oil and gasrevenue~