Myanmar: Civil servants' strike makes it difficult for military

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Feb 26, 2021, 12:51 PM IST
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Protesters wearing traditional "thanakha", a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark applied on the face, hold placards and flash the three-finger salute during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 25, 2021. Photograph:(AFP)

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The growing civil disobedience movement is thwarting the generals' plans to control the political situation in the country

Refusal of many Myanmar's civil servants to work for the junta has made matters worse for military due to paralysing of bureaucracy. Public hospitals are deserted. Government offices left dark. And the trains don't leave the stations.

The growing civil disobedience movement is thwarting the generals' plans to control the political situation in the country.

"The military needs to prove that they can manage the country well as a government. But if we... the civil servants don't work, their plan to take power will fail," Thida, a public university lecturer who asked to use a pseudonym, told AFP Monday as cities were brought to a standstill by the largest strike yet.

Thida has refused to teach her online classes. Work stoppage in private sector has hollowed out offices and factories. Even many bank branches are shut.

But it is the civil servants' swelling ranks within the resistance that has the junta particularly rattled.

Without them, it is unable to collect taxes, send out electricity bills, test the population for Covid-19 or simply keep the country running.

The spectre of a financial crisis -- already brewing because of the pandemic downturn and a decline in foreign investment -- looms large.

Cracks starting to show

It remains unclear how many of the roughly one million public sector workers are participating.

One crowdsourced survey found members of all 24 government ministries are now involved, while the UN special rapporteur on 
Myanmar has estimated three-quarters of the civil servants are on strike.

Civil servants' absence has begun to show its effect.

Nearly one-third of the nation's hospitals are no longer functioning, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said this week.

Decrying medical professionals' failure to fulfil their duties, he hinted that working doctors and teachers would soon receive cash rewards, according to remarks reported by state media Tuesday.

One doctor told AFP that staff shortages meant his hospital has had to turn away new patients. Medical "cover teams" have formed to provide emergency treatment to protesters under fire from rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Paper pushing in government departments has all but halted, according to local media reports, and around the country clerks, drivers and administrators have been dismissed over their absence.

"The military didn't anticipate that a large part of the civil service would walk out and leave them without a state apparatus," said an analyst who asked to remain anonymous as the junta has detained more than 700 of its critics.

(With inputs from AFP)