Past Events

Myanmar: From Anti-coup Protests to a Federal Democratic Union Movement

On 1 Feb 2022, the military conducted a putsch in Yangon. State Chancellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other NLD senior leaders were arrested. Parliament was suspended. Predictably, there occurred widespread protests. However, with fire power at its disposal, the military expected to “wrap things up” by Armed Forces Day, 3 months after the coup. In fact, the anti-military struggle has persisted until today.

Initially, when repression was heightened in mid-2021, the protestors resorted to all kinds of tactics to circumvent the military restrictions: protests were moved to side streets; from day-time to night-time; from listening to speeches to banging away pots and pans. As well, the struggle moved from the Bamar-majority cities to the rural hinterlands where the ethnic minorities resided. This struggle has even led to the formation of the Peoples’ Defence Forces to combat the military.

This talk will explore why the 2021 struggle has persisted whereas the 1988 student-led uprising petered out after 6 months. And while the latter resulted in a majority of activists being pushed into exile, the 2021 struggle has transformed into a widespread movement that boasts a “National Unity Government” and a “National Unity Consultative Council”; has disseminated a “Federal Democratic Charter” which is the basis of a new Constitution; and is now building an administrative system from the bottom up (unlike the top-down General Administrative Dept); and an educational system from the township level upwards, to the state/region and Union levels. We shall discuss the critical significance of the 10 years of transition, 2011 to 2021.


Date: 24 June 2022 (Friday)
Time: 8.00pm – 10:00pm (Doors open from 7.30pm)
Venue: Penang Institute, 10-12 Brown Road, George Town
Speaker: Francis Loh, Former Professor of Politics, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Moderator: Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Executive Director, Penang Institute

About the Speaker:

Francis LOH Kok Wah was Professor of Politics, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang until his retirement, 2012. Presently he is Senior Adviser, Forum of Federations (Ottawa) and conducts courses and workshops on federalism, decentralization and inclusive governance in Myanmar. He graduated from Cornell University (PhD, 1980) where he studied Southeast Asian Politics with George McT Kahin and Benedict Anderson. Francis was Hon Secretary of Aliran – the multi-ethnic multi-religious NGO based in Penang – for 20 years, and President for 5 years (2011-2016).

His latest publications include: New vs Old Politics: Malaysian State and Society in Transition (2009); Regime Change in Malaysia (2018, Co-editor); The Xaverian Journey: the story of a Lasallian School in Penang, Malaysia, 1787-2019 (2019, co-author); “Ethnic Diversity and the Nation-state in the 21st Century: Lessons from Malaysia and Myanmar”, International Journal of Asian Christianity 4 (2021): 28-49 (Brill); and “Doing Cutting-edge Social Science”, An Interview with Francis Loh on Naratif Malaysia.