Global solidarity must remain engaged for the long haul to support the civil resistance to military rule in Myanmar/Burma.

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On 1 February in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, elected members of the national parliament were prepared to take their seats for the first time since the November 2020 election. On that morning an ‘interim president’ invited the head of the military to take all power in the country- judicial, legislative and executive.

This was not a spur of the moment action, but one for which the military had well planned. Within the coming hours you could practically keep beat with the passing minutes as notice after notice was issued by the military Commander in Chief dismissed national and local government officials, and judges. These in turn were followed by notice after notice of new appointments to those positions, appointed solely by the Commander in Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces.

In the following days, the military formed a council which was half civilian, including members of some ethnic groups as the core of government. The military seizure of power was endorsed by 23 existing political parties (most of whom had not captured seats in the November elections). Before even a week had gone by, the military appointed government’s Foreign Minister had held his first briefing with the diplomatic corps within the country to explain the legal nature of the transfer of power.

The events of 1 February reveal a well prepared and thought out action by the military to seize total control, again, of Myanmar. They have taken pains to avoid international censure by cloaking the power grab in legal clauses in the 2008 Constitution. Clauses the military wrote, which allowed it transfer to itself all state powers when vague, undefined circumstances were met.

All the actions of the military reveal that they need one thing that all their military power cannot seize for them. Legitimacy. International solidarity actions must make sure they never obtain it.

Civil Resistance

The seizure of state institutions by the military has not been welcomed by the majority of the citizenry who have for the past days gathered in the tens of thousands to say one thing to the military- it isn’t you who we elected.

A campaign of civil disobedience was launched on 3rd February, when hundreds of doctors and nurses from the government hospitals launched a civil disobedience movement calling for the release of those arrested since the coup, and called for parliament to convene with the parliamentarians democratically elected in the Nov. 8 general election.

Civil servants walked off the job or wore a red-ribbon campaign to show their defiance against the coup while continuing to work.

More broadly, citizens have banged pots and pans at 8pm every night since Tuesday to oppose military rule. By 5th February thousands of government staff, doctors, nurses, students, professors and teachers at 91 government hospitals, 18 universities and colleges and 12 government departments in 79 townships across the country were on strike.

The citizenry have urged police in Myanmar’s major cities to disobey any orders to repress them and to join the citizens in rejecting military rule.

Myanmar’s veteran activists from 1988 uprising, the 88 Generation for Peace and Open Society, called for people to take multiple approaches, including a boycott of military-run businesses, to oppose military rule. People must find other ways to reduce military revenue, they said in a statement. The military is involved in areas like banking, breweries, buses, telecoms, tobacco and TV channels. “People should stop using their services and boycott shops where their products are sold,”

Officially recognize the non-military government

Some parliamentarians did not obey the military order to ‘go home’, and remained in the capital of Naypyitaw. Three days after the military seized power they held a ceremony to swear themselves into the parliament, despite the military order to leave. They are now acting on their own as elected people’s representatives. 70 lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) took parliamentary oaths of office at an improvised swearing-in ceremony on 4th February at the government housing, where lawmakers normally stay during parliamentary sessions. One elected representative stated that they were “convening of the Parliament”, saying the venue didn’t matter as long as there were lawmakers in attendance. “No one can take away the legitimacy of the MP status granted to us by the people. That’s why we took oaths as parliamentarians-for the people,” Other MPs who had obeyed military orders to leave were to take their oaths online.

All governments who care about democratic values should immediately state that they officially recognize the parliamentarians who were elected by the people, not the military government. They should ask any diplomatic staff of a Myanmar embassy in their country which group they will represent. If they say they represent the elected officials support them. If they say they represent the military regime, expel them. This is the sole way by which nations can withhold legitimacy from the military formed government.

Financial Pressure and sanctions

Telenor is a Norwegian telecoms company in which the Government of Norway is the major share holderª. It is one of 4 major telecoms providers in Myanmar (the other 3 are Myanmar Post and Telecommunications, a joint venture between the Vietnames and Myanmar Army, and Qatari based telecom company.

Telenor has blocked social media (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram) on its mobile internet at the request of the Myanmar military. It notes on its website that this request is ‘legal under Myanmar law’, but states that it said to the authorities that the order contravenes international human rights law.

Telenor’s actions demonstrate that it is willing to accept that the military government is a legitimate by stating that its laws are legitimate. Telnor agreement to act against human rights norms legitimizes the military regime, despite a 5 February UN Security Council statement which urged “respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law” in Myanmar.

Telenor is not the only company engaged with the military in Myanmar, but it is the one whose actions allow repression of dissent at this critical time, which the United Nations Security Council stated must be protected. The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) identified at least 120 businesses involved in everything from construction to pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, insurance, tourism and banking being owned by two military owned business conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). The FFM called for imposition of an arms embargo, citing at least 14 foreign firms from seven nations that have supplied fighter jets, armored combat vehicles, warships, missiles and missile launchers to Myanmar since 2016.

Illegitimate laws must never be obeyed. The military regime has kept colonial laws, or written new ones with which it controls, oppresses or punishes the population. Like Burma’s former colonial rulers, it rules by law. There is no rule of law.

Without legitimacy, the military government will not be able to normalize its rule. This will undercut the main power of the military regime, as they need the international community to treat the situation as normal and themselves as legitimate. To stand in solidarity with the struggle in Myanmar, international citizens should persuade or pressure their governments to withhold that legitimacy.

ªCaisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec is Telenor’s third largest institutional investor.

See also: Speaking truth to power: Methods of Nonviolent Struggle in Burma

Nonviolence in Asia Series Number 2,

Nonviolence International, 2005

22 January 2021 Nuclear Weapons Are Banned

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Today, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becomes international law.

Civil society has struggled for decades to bring about a global convention banning nuclear weapons, the last weapon of mass destruction now to have a treaty which comprehensively prohibits the use, production stockpiling or trade of the weapon.

This is an enormous achievement in which we can all celebrate. The civil society network which coordinated global action to bring this treaty into being is the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Nonviolence International is part of this campaign, as it is other humanitarian disarmament movements (see Humanitarian Disarmament)

While Canada does not possess any nuclear weapons, and while many Canadian provinces have passed resolution declaring themselves nuclear weapons free (and many Canadian municipalities have signed the ICAN cities pledge), our neighbour to the immediate south has many.

British Columbia shares the Salish Sea with the US state of Washington, and the channel through which it sails its largest fleet of nuclear armed vessels, the Trident nuclear weapon submarine fleet. It also houses the world’s largest known arsenal of nuclear weapons just 50 mi. off the BC coastline.

Residents of both BC and Washington State who live along this waterway joined together to proclaim today that nuclear weapons are now banned.

This photo action was produced in cooperation with Washington Against Nuclear Weapons and Mines Action Canada.

Nonviolence International webinars: People Power in Sudan

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We hope everyone has been well since the last webinar on the collaborative work of our partners, the Palestinian Holy Land Trust, and the Center For Jewish Nonviolence. Our webinar series entitled, We are All Part of One Another, brings diverse nonviolent campaigns and voices directly to you. We are excited to host another on People Power in Sudan. You can register using this link.

Sudan’s revolution in 2019 was truly remarkable: A successful removal of a 30-year Islamist dictatorship by a secular revolution with nation-wide support and major leadership from women. Sudan has an exciting future, but also tremendous challenges. They are not getting the full support from the US and other nations that they need and deserve.

One year after the successful overthrow of the al-Bashir dictatorship, NVI will host Sudanese leaders and a US congresswoman in a webinar about the revolution and the current situation of the Sudanese people and government. Our Sudanese speakers will share their hopes and plans for Sudan’s future and articulate ways in which the international community and specifically the USA can help.

Our speakers will include Khartoum-based experts: Asma Ismail Ahmed – a well known civil society activist, Anthony Haggar – a prominent businessman and influential leader, as well as Jalelah Sophia Ahmed – a leader in the Sudanese diaspora in Washington DC. We will also have US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal speak about what US and global citizens can do to help get the US government to de-list Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism and provide more support for the fledgling democracy.

Our host will be Michael Beer, NVI Director, who provided much needed support for the Sudanese people during the uprising.

Please help us spread the word about this global conversation on Wednesday, July 1st at 10:30 AM EDT. Again, you can register here.

Peace,

Mubarak Awad

President, Nonviolence International

P.S.  As you know, Nonviolence International provides resources to movements all around the world. These tools are needed now more than ever. Check out our growing database of  Nonviolent Tactics, and our NV Training Archive, which is a partnership between NVI and Rutgers University International Institute for Peace.

http://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/

Peacefulness in Canada?

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How do we measure peace? The 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI) has just been released (June 2020), and has the un-enviable task of determining the peacefulness in our globally diverse societies.

Compared to other countries, Canada’s ranks near the top in sixth position is unchanged from 2019. For smugness, yes, we rate far above our southern neighbour, who came in at 121 (out of 163 countries measured). This years ranking does include the beginnings of recent demonstrations on race relations, environmental concern and police violence in North America.

The ranking across countries takes into account governance types, claims that its indicators cover 99.7 per cent of the global population, and uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators in three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.

The GPI also seeks to identify trends in Positive Peace: the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies, and examines the relationship between the actual peace of a country, as measured by the GPI, and Positive Peace, and how a deficit of Positive Peace can be a predictor of future increases in violent conflict.

The indicators are: External Conflicts Fought; Perceptions of Criminality; Internal Conflicts Fought; Incarceration Rate; Intensity of Internal Conflict; Violent Demonstrations; Terrorism Impact; Nuclear and Heavy Weapons; Deaths from External Conflict; Weapons Imports; Violent Crime; Political Instability; Neighbouring Countries Relations; Access to Small Arms; Police Rate; Armed Services Personnel Rate; Weapons Exports; Homicide Rate; Military Expenditure (% GDP); Refugees and IDPs; Political Terror Scale; Deaths from Internal Conflict; UN Peacekeeping Funding.

According to the 2020 GPI, “Canada’s overall level of peacefulness improved slightly, thanks to improvements in scores across all three GPI domains. The single largest improvement occurred on the terrorism impact indicator. Canada had a spike in terrorism between 2017 and 2018, with 16 people killed from 16 confirmed terrorist attacks. However, the number of attacks and deaths dropped in 2019, leading to the improvement in score on the 2020 GPI. Canada also had improvements both its incarceration rate and police rate. However, there was a slight increase in the homicide rate, which rose to 1.8 per 100,000 people, and also slight increases in military expenditure and weapons exports” It should be noted here, that the police rate is the number of police per 100,000 people. Canada’s police rate is almost identical to the Nordic countries, ie very low numbers of police per citizen. Civil unrest is primarily non-violent demonstrations, followed by general strikes and riots.

There are subsections of the GPI which look at each of the above indicators in itself and regionally. Specific changes, either positive or negative for individual countries can be found. The report is important reading for everyone concerned with the building of more peaceful societies. That should be all of us….

Global Peace Index 2020, June 2020

Special Report: COVID-19 & Peace, June 2020

Both by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP). IEP is headquartered in Sydney, with offices in New York, The Hague, Mexico City, Brussels and Harare.

Project to Save the World video interview with founder of Nonviolence International

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Project Save the World Watch Video Talk Show with activists in Nonviolence International by Metta Spencer

Mubarak Awad was a Palestinian Christian psychotherapist who realized that his clients did not need therapy; they needed freedom. Which led him to found the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence, which the Israeli government did not appreciate — it created an effective nonviolent intifada. The work  continues, and Metta speaks with Awad and three  other leaders in Nonviolence International: Michael Beer (working in the USA),  Andre Kamenshikov (working now from Kiev, Ukraine), and  Yeshua Moser Puangsuwan (working from both Southeast Asia and Canada). They are optimistic about the importance, and the liklihood of being able to, continue their work,  even in the hard post-Covid society and economy.

Video: https://youtu.be/DAInkwifZf4

Audio Podcast: https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/show/projectsavetheworld/id/14574656

Metta Spencer, is the Editor of Canada’s Peace Magazine and producer of the video magazine Project Save the World. The video’s can be found on the inter-disciplinary Platform for Survival on the Project to Save the World website. The Platform is a set of public policy proposals, if adopted together, will greatly reduce the risk of six grave, inter-dependent threats to humankind: War & Weapons, Global Warming, Famine, Pandemics, Radiation Exposure, Cyber Attacks, Enabling Measures and Fatal Combinations. If you accept at least 20 of the 25 planks outlined under the above grave threats, scroll down on the site and add your endorsement, and ask your organization to endorse too, listing its website there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada institutes a comprehensive ban on assault weapons with immediate effect

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Today, International Workers Day 2020, the Canadian government banned, with immediate effect, the sale, transfer, importation and use of assault style weapons. The ban covers 1,500 models and variants of assault style firearms, and will be amended to include new models in the future.

At a national press conference by the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau and several cabinet members including the Minister for Public Safety Mr. Bill Blair, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ms. Chrystia Freeland and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. David Lametti, outlined the scope of the ban.

The Prime Minister opened the Press Conference by recalling his own college age experience of learning of the 1989 mass shooting at the École Polytechnique in Montreal where a gunman separated out and killed female students. Mr. Trudeau reflected on his disbelief about how such an event could happen within the country. In perhaps an oblique critique of American policy he stated, “Prayers and thoughts are not enough.” and continued,“Because of gun violence, people are dying, families are grieving, and communities are suffering. It must end. Assault-style firearms designed for military use have no place in Canada. By removing them from our streets, we will limit the devastating effects of gun-related violence and help make our country safer.

Mr. Blair, the Public Safety Minister, noted that there had been wide support for an assault weapons ban by the public in Canada for years and today’s actions were a response to that. He also noted that public concern regarding the militarization of the police was directly tied to the militarization of the public which had occurred through the acquisition of military grade weapons by some members of the public. He noted that this ban will increase public safety from individuals motivated by racism and misogyny.

Ms. Freeland, the Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister noted that a disproportionate percentage of the victims are women, and that the fetishization of weapons and femicide it enabled needed to stop. She provided statistics on the numbers of women specifically targeted by violence, and further noted that owning a weapon designed to kill many people was part of making one look like they could kill many people. She noted that this law will protect women and is firmly within the Canadian government’s feminist policies.

While the ban on use, transfer, sale, and importation is in effect immediately, a two year amnesty is in place for current owners regarding possession. Gun shops may apply for a permit to export back to manufactures, and current private owners may apply within those 2 years to export a now illegal firearm. The government will propose legislation to Parliament for a ‘fair market’ buy back as well. There are exceptions under the amnesty for Indigenous peoples exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights to hunt, and for those who hunt or trap to sustain themselves or their families. These exceptions will allow for the continued use of newly prohibited firearms in limited circumstances until a suitable replacement can be found. By the end of the amnesty period, all firearms owners must comply with the ban.

 

Nonviolence International is a founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms, a global movement against gun violence that links hundreds of organizations working to stop the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.

BC Capital paper stigmatizes protest

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On 27 March the Times Colonist of Victoria British Columbia published an opinion piece titled:

Police OT costs rise sharply thanks to protests, rallies” The editorial notes that the costs the police spent in attending to climate protests in the BC capital had increased dramatically. The paper reported that “department had spent $183,000 to police 34 protests, compared with $82,765 on 40 events all of last year…almost as many events as they did in 2019, the department says the protests have been “longer, larger and more resource-intensive” in the first two months of 2020.”

While appearing to be a factual statement of events, the editors appear to lay the blame on the protests for additional costs. Really? While the Times-Colonist wrote that protests are longer and larger than previous, they failed to ask why? The rejection of a policy of environmental exploitation by a ‘larger’ section of the public, which at that particular time was focused on an indigenous land dispute, were the mobilizing factors.

Why not a headline of ‘Public opposition to gas pipeline leads to increased costs for city’? Well one reason may be the ownership of the capital city’s newspaper. It was purchased nine years ago by Glacier Media, whose energy division publish the Daily Oil Bulletin and Oilweek magazine, and the Canoils brand of data products and the Heavy Oil & Oilsands Guidebook. To say that the Times-Colonist ownership is invested in fossil fuels is an understatement, it is a part of the industry. Glacier Media’s purchase of many local newspapers in the metropolitan Vancouver area, especially those through which the Trans-Canada pipeline expansion will pass is something to pause and consider as well.

It has long been noted that the press is free to those who own them, and today they are mostly owned by corporations. They are not a public good which does its reporting without fear or favour any more. Despite the fact that pipeline construction is continuing during the corona virus crisis, the environmental movement is supporting a commitment to public health by practicing the social distancing requested by our health sector and not putting its numbers out on the street.

Soon, however, restrictions on public distancing will be lifted. What will occur then? A British academic made the following prescient observations that the public will have “… a renewed awareness of the fragility of our complex societies, of global interconnectedness, and the benefits of taking heed of scientific warnings and prescriptions. The pandemic occurred against a backdrop of unprecedented concerns about climate change and accumulated impacts of extreme events. Anyone who thinks that Covid-19 has displaced this may be in for a shock: It could be precisely the opposite.”

Bad Optics: Canadian state projects protesters as a danger to the public

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Images and video distributed on the media of highly militarized police personnel used by Canadian authorities to dismantle a protest encampment and arrest the protesters were very disturbing, and certainly problematic from a civil liberties and civil rights perspective.

Encampments have a long history as a civil disobedience tactic, across cultures, as a means of expressing disapproval and defiance.

Civil disobedience is just that, its civil. It does not threaten the existing order by armed insurrection. However it does chose to, temporarily, disregard or disobey some ordinances or laws by a group which does not feel its grievances have been heard, or adequately addressed.

Civil disobedience, also known as nonviolent direct action, may be a path chosen by some citizens if the normal channels of redress do not work satisfactorily, or they feel their concerns are being systematically ignored. Political action, as opposed to violent action, is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter is not always a convenient document for the powerful, especially when their actions put them at odds with it.

There are important questions to be asked, and answers demanded, of why the police felt the need to be so heavily armed. Pleas of self protection are unacceptable. It cannot be that they simply had no intelligence on the make up of the inhabitants of the protest encampment. That would imply incompetence beyond belief. While the author cannot speak to their thinking, their actions do send a clear message to the public, and this may be intentional: protest is a danger to society.

The current demand by the ruling authorities for lawful behaviour is another message: protest is outlawed unless you just stand quietly to the side with a protest sign while the outrage happens. This is both unrealistic and unacceptable.

The encampments and blockades have acted as power equalizers, they have brought the government to the table when they had previously felt comfortable to ignore the grievances. It is not reasonable to expect the movement give up all its power first on the promise of talks later.

The authorities are currently cloaking their demands as obedience to the law. But what they are really practicing represents rule by law rather than the rule of law.

Encampments and blockades are a clear nonviolent tactic, and as such, provide no threat to public what-so-ever, regardless of the inconveniences it causes. Whether the inconveniences will bring allies or enemies to the movement is a separate decision which needs to be assessed, repeatedly, by the organizers. Nonviolent civil disobedience has a rich diversity of methods of engagement and resistance and activists are required to regularly update their political assessment of suitable nonviolent actions according to the stage and status of a struggle for the public imagination.

Highly militarized policing sends the wrong signal, unless the state is an authoritarian one, in which case it just an honest statement of contempt for the ruled.

 

Canada and the 2019 Global Peace Index

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Canada’s ranking in the 2019 Global Peace Index remains unchanged from 2018. Canada is ranked highest on the peace index for all of the Americas.

Canada ranked number six globally and has been in the top ten since the launch of the index in 2007.

In 2019, global peace, as measured by the index, improved, very slightly, but for the fist times in several years.

The Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), ranks 163 countries (99.7% of the world’s population) according to 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators of peace. The Global Peace Index ranks countries by the following criteria.

External Conflicts Fought, Perceptions of Criminality, Internal Conflicts Fought, Incarceration Rate, Intensity of Internal Conflict, Violent Demonstrations, Terrorism Impact, Nuclear and Heavy Weapons, Deaths from External Conflict, Weapons Imports, Violent Crime, Political Instability, Neighbouring Countries Relations, Access to Small Arms, Police Rate, Armed Services Personnel Rate, Weapons Exports, Homicide Rate, Military Expenditure (% GDP), Refugees and IDPs, Political Terror Scale, Deaths from Internal Conflict, UN Peacekeeping Funding.

As for North America, only Canada and the US are comparable and, well, they are in totally different leagues, with Canada ranking No. 6 on the global index and the US at No. 128.

For more see the 2019 Global Peace Index. The same group compiles the Global Terrorism Index as well.

Funding the Green New Deal? Federal Government to spend 533 bil. on the military over next 20 years.

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Former researcher for the International Peace Bureau in Geneva Tamara Lorincz has compiled the following data from the government budget. For a nation for whom war is unlikely in its known form, the Federal government has committed to spending $533 billion on the Canadian military over the next 20 years. The money was proposed under Canada’s 2017 defence policy, Strong Secure Engaged.  According to Ms. Lorincz, “The Canadian military will be recruiting more soldiers and buying more weapons to maintain high-end warfighting.”

Her search of the records reveals that last year, the Canadian military received $32 billion according to the Public Accounts of Canada. Canada, perhaps surprisingly for most Canadians, was ranked 14th highest in the world for military spending according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Canada’s military consumes the largest part of Canada’s budget, by far, and when ranked economically against our provinces would constitute Canada’s 4th largest province.

While this may consume funding necessary to mobilize a Green New Deal, Ms. Lorincz notes that the military is the federal agency that consumes the most fossil fuels, and is one of the biggest producers of hazardous waste in Canada, and is also the agency with the most contaminated sites across the country. Lorincz flags that the carbon emissions from military vehicles and operations are exempted from national greenhouse gas reporting and reduction targets in Canada.

The following chart, compiled by T. Lorincz, provides a view over time of how spending in Canada on the military has been climbing while spending on the environment is basically flat lining. [Chart copyright T. Lorincz 2019, used with permission]