Myanmar Update 18.3.21
Dear Friends of Promise Schools
We write to update praying friends about the situation in Myanmar, and about how our team is faring. We stay in close touch with the Canadian-American husband and wife team who are acting in the Principal/Vice Principal roles in our absence. To those of us who love the nation of Myanmar and its people, the news is distressing, and heartbreaking to the point of tears.
Readers might have seen some of the graphic coverage of the chaos and violence on SBS News. There has been lesser coverage on other news outlets. The situation since the sudden military coup on 1 February has steadily deteriorated and is now grim. We can summarise as follows:
· On 1 February, the Myanmar Military, known as the Tatmadaw, staged a coup and arrested the leaders of the elected NLD (National League for Democracy) civilian government, including the highly popular NLD leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been charged with ‘trumped up’ charges and is understood to be under house arrest again, though no one knows exactly where.
· There has been a popular uprising referred to as the CDM (Civil Disobedience Movement) to resist the military. Mass peaceful protests in the streets are dominated by Myanmar’s young people. The military and police have responded to protests brutally with hundreds of unarmed protesters shot and killed, and thousands arrested, then to disappear or turn up dead later.
· Our once peaceful street in a Karen Baptist neighbourhood has been a battleground, as have the streets around ‘the Lodge’ where our teaching staff live. The banks are not operating, the ATMs are not being replenished, most public services are dysfunctional, and the military has shut down communications and restricted the internet to limit news getting out. We have ordered our staff to lock their doors, stay inside, keep their heads down and get supplies delivered where possible.
· In the provincial areas, there has been conflict between the Tatmadaw and regional rebel armies for decades. Now some these ethnic militias are joining forces to form a Federal Army to take on the Tatmadaw. This has the making of an all-out civil war.
· International pressure on the coup leaders has been slowly building up. We have contacted various federal politicians, and have been somewhat ‘underwhelmed’ by the response. However we understand the delicacy of the situation given the geopolitics of the region, and the strong support the Tatmadaw and its leaders have from a large neighbour to the north which is currently not overly fond of Australia.
· All this is on top of the coronavirus pandemic with the lockdowns and hardship that has caused. The Promise Schools have continued to provide schooling and support families as best we can. The latest threat is to close down the internet completely. That could end the online learning which has been going on for most of the last twelve months.
· As of today, 18 March, we have recommended that expatriate staffers get out of the country if and while they still can. Of special concern are several staff families with young children. There are few flights out, demand is heavy and fares very expensive. We are trying to raise financial support to help. On top of fares, all would face the cost of quarantine wherever they are able to get to.
· Our national staff are also a big concern to us, especially those at the national school. With lockdowns and general chaos everywhere, many families have no work, no income and cannot pay school fees even for the online service we have struggled to maintain to date. We have already cut their wages to try to ensure the limited funds and the livelihoods of national staff spin out as long as possible.
· Any funds we can raise here are a lifeline. We can use credit cards and other innovative means to get around some of the problems of remitting funds while the banks are closed and the internet unreliable – for a while at least. We appeal for help from friends here – grateful for many who have contributed to our ‘Promise Relief Appeal’ over recent months. Donations to this fund are tax-deductible in Australia. The account details are shown below.
There has already been much prayer for the nation, its ordinary citizens who have suffered so much, and our Promise School communities in these difficult and dangerous times. But please continue to pray – for peace, safety and justice especially. A miracle is needed. Our God can do miracles. PS: On a lighter note, as well as the traditional beating of pots and pans in unison and the three-fingered salute as common forms of protest, the people of one nearby suburb have set out in the streets row upon row of their traditional toy (a weighted figurine called a 'pyit tine htaung' which can’t be kept down) - this aptly representing peaceful protest by a resilient people who will never give up and are determined not to be defeated!!