Every night at 8pm local time, residents of the largest city in Myanmar, Yangon, bang on pots and pans to show their opposition to the military coup that has taken over their country in recent weeks.
It might not sound like much in the face of brutal dictatorship, but it serves a purpose beyond an act of resistance. It is an act of solidarity. Not just aimed at generals and soldiers, but intended for their neighbours and friends. Do not be discouraged, they communicate to each other with their nightly arrhythmic percussion.
At midnight last Thursday, similar sounds filled Lygon Street in Melbourne; 7,900 kilometres away from Yangon. Despite the distance, there is reason to hope that striking workers and protestors in Myanmar heard the noise emanating from Trades Hall and from all over the world. They are not alone, and we stand in solidarity with them.
The action was part of the Global Noise Barrage coordinated by the Council of Global Unions, to show that workers the world over will not abide military dictatorship anywhere it tries to take hold. The junta has shut down communications, but satellite access has been organised to circumvent the blackout and beam in images and video of the actions taking place.
The military takeover began on February 1st, one day before the Parliament elected last November was due to be sworn in and sit for the first time. Claiming the election had been rigged (a line we have heard too often lately) the military arrested four hundred elected representatives and declared a state of emergency.
Healthcare workers were the first to take action. Less than 24 hours after the arrests were made and the coup launched, workers at 70 hospitals across the country walked out in protest. No small act, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.
Following soon after, workers in all industries put down their tools and have refused to participate in an economy governed by thugs. What this has all amounted to is a general strike across the entire country: airlines, railways, mines, public service, construction sites, garment factories and schools have all been shut down. Even the military-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise has ground to a halt as a result of workers withdrawing their labour.
Protests in the streets have been ongoing since February 2nd, led and supported by trade unions. The healthcare workers who led the way have started what they are calling the Red Ribbon campaign; red being the colour associated with the deposed National League for Democracy. Despite being peaceful, the military have reacted with force, with one 20 year-old woman having been shot and killed in Naypyitaw. Several more have been seriously injured.
It is unclear how, when or if the situation will be resolved, but we will do our best to remind our brothers and sisters in Myanmar that they are not alone.