An Assessment of the Pro-Military Rally in Yangon, Myanmar
It is PROBABLE there will be future Pro-Military demonstrations within Yangon. Future Pro-Military marches and rallies will POSSIBLY cause disruption to traffic and transport within Yangon; posing POTENTIAL threats to freedom of movement within the city. While Protest/Demonstration incidents for 2018 in Myanmar indicate a low chance of demonstrations being violent; Myanmar has several anniversaries each year where demonstrations can become violent. If Pro-Military rallies become a recurring incident, these kinds of demonstrations could also pose higher threats to personal safety.
On 14 OCT 2018, a pro-military march occurred in Yangon which drew thousands of supporters. The aim of the march was to condemn recent calls from the international community to prosecute the Military’s Generals over alleged atrocities towards the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
Shown in the imagery below, the march began in Bahan Township and proceeded south to Maha Bandula Park, opposite Yangon’s City Hall. Participants in the march – including Buddhist monks – waved Myanmar and Tatmadaw flags, showed framed portraits of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s Military) Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. In addition, nationalist monk U Wirathu gave his first major public speech since being barred from delivering sermons last year. Wirathu criticised the ICC’s decision to open a preliminary probe into alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims and other monks levelled criticism at the UN, the EU, and international media (Frontier Myanmar 2018; McCabe & Harrington 2018).
COMMENT. No details have been found to indicate this march and rally became violent. This march and rally appear to have occurred in the centre of Yangon. While no specifics are available on the actual route of the march, available mapping shows a number of major roads could have been taken for the march; with the most direct route being shown by the blue line. Available imagery from open source reporting provides supporting evidence of the claim that thousands attended. This large march and rally outside City Hall would appear to have caused delays to road traffic and transport depending on the route(s) taken by the protestors (McCabe & Harrington 2018).
Separate open source reporting on 27 AUG 2018 has shown a UN fact-finding mission has called for the prosecution of Myanmar’s Senior Military Leaders – specifically mentioning Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior-General Soe Win and Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw. The calls for their prosecution include alleged atrocities against not just the Rohingya in Rakhine State but other minorities including those in Kachin and Shan States. In addition, previous reporting on China’s BRI indicated that Western States – specifically the UK, the EU and USA – are focussing their attention on alleged atrocities committed by the Tatmadaw towards ethnic minorities (Grafilo 2018; Tisdall 2018; AFP 2018; Pratten et al. 2018).
Examination of Protests/Demonstrations in Myanmar indicate there have been 43 such incidents this year in Myanmar. The most active areas for protests are Yangon closely followed by the Mandalay region to the north. Available information indicates this is the second Pro-Military rally in the country so far and these Protests/Demonstrations have become violent. However, available DFAT and FCO Travel Advice indicate demonstrations can become violent from the actions of demonstrations and or heavy-handed crackdowns by security forces. Particular events which can become violent are the following anniversaries (McCabe & Harrington 2018; DFAT 2018; UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office 2018):
- 27 March – Armed Forces Day;
- April – The Water Festival (Thingyan) and Myanmar New Year;
- 19 July – Martyr’s Day;
- 08 August – 1988 Uprising Anniversary; and,
- 26 September – Anniversary of Demonstrations led by Buddhist Monks.
While this Pro-Military March and Rally was outside of known anniversaries which can become violent and the peaceful nature of this particular March and Rally, the reaction towards International calls to prosecute Military leaders could become a recurring incident in the future. Depending on future rhetoric both within Myanmar and around the world towards the Tatmadaw, this issue could become more heated and lead to violent demonstrations. Given the history of Protests/Demonstrations in Myanmar so far, any future demonstrations of this kind would have high chances of being held within central Yangon. COMMENT ENDS.
|Less than 50% chance||50% chance or greater||75% chance or greater||95% chance or greater|
It is PROBABLE there will be future Pro-Military demonstrations within Yangon that will focus on countering calls from the International Community to prosecute the Tatmadaw’s Generals. Given the size of this recent March and Rally, future demonstrations in Yangon supporting the Tatmadaw will POSSIBLY be of similar size or larger. Future Pro-Military marches and rallies will POSSIBLY cause disruption to traffic and transport within Yangon; posing POTENTIAL threats to freedom of movement within the city.
While Protest/Demonstration incidents for 2018 in Myanmar indicate a low chance of demonstrations being violent; Myanmar has several anniversaries each year where demonstrations can become violent. Demonstrations held on or near known anniversaries can POSSIBLY pose a threat to personal safety. If Pro-Military rallies become a recurring feature of Demonstrations/Protests in Myanmar, particularly within Yangon, these kinds of demonstrations could also pose higher threats to personal safety; especially towards anyone involved with UN bodies or supporting agencies.
BRI – Belt and Road Initiative
DFAT – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
EU – European Union
FCO – Foreign and Commonwealth Office
ICC – International Criminal Court
UK – United Kingdom
UN – United Nations
USA – United States of America
AFP 2018, ‘Army Chiefs Must Be Prosecuted For “Genocide”, Says UN Fact-Finding Mission’, Frontier Myanmar, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://frontiermyanmar.net/en/army-chiefs-must-be-prosecuted-for-genocide-says-un-fact-finding-mission>.
DFAT 2018, ‘Myanmar’, Smart Traveller, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://smartraveller.gov.au/Countries/asia/south-east/Pages/myanmar.aspx>.
Frontier Myanmar 2018, ‘Yangon Pro-Military Rally Draws Thousands As Wirathu Hits Back At UN’, Frontier Myanmar, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://frontiermyanmar.net/en/yangon-pro-military-rally-draws-thousands-as-wirathu-hits-back-at-un>.
Grafilo, J 2018, ‘UN Fact-Finding Mission Seeks Prosecution Of Tatmadaw Leaders’, The Myanmar Times, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://www.mmtimes.com/news/un-fact-finding-mission-seeks-prosecution-tatmadaw-leaders.html>.
McCabe, M & Harrington, D 2018, ‘Intelligence Fusion Platform – Asia’, Intelligence Fusion Platform, retrieved October 13, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/>.
PRATTEN M, McCabe, M, Harrington, D & Brown, L 2018, ‘The Effects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Myanmar’, Intelligence Fusion, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/blog/the-effects-of-china-s-belt-and-road-initiative-in-myanmar>.
Tisdall, S 2018, ‘UN Tells Of Myanmar Genocide But Are World Powers Listening?’, The Guardian, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/27/un-claim-of-myanmar-genocide-is-a-litmus-test-for-global-justice>.
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office 2018, ‘Burma Travel Advice’, Foreign Travel Advice, retrieved October 22, 2018, from <https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/burma>.