The Main Street Defense Team

I was on a career break for the big Bank Strike in Ireland in the early 1990s. When I returned to work, the picket line had been dismantled. The Union and management had come to an agreement. I was late to the party. But that still didn’t stop colleagues who didn’t know me wondering which side of the line I’d have been on had I been there.

Working construction in another lifetime, I was setting up the office trailer when I spotted a chap with a hammer. I had a nail that needed driving into the wall. I asked him if he’d oblige. He said he couldn’t. He was an electrician. I needed a carpenter. It was a union site.

Unions have been on my mind since I heard that the money I’d donated to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) in Myanmar has gone to support 20 workers in one of the oilfields.

From what I gather, the government has a lot of enterprises like MOGE (Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises) and MPPE (Myanmar Petroleum Product Enterprises). Oil field workers come under MOGE and they’re protesting and striking against the new regime. Many have been removed from government housing and of course, being on strike means no pay. No pay means no food. No food is one way the military has of bringing the country around to its way of thinking. With banks closed and trade suspended, people are in limbo. I’m glad someone will benefit from the funds I sent.

But it doesn’t stop there. In the 48 hours that have passed, I’ve learned of another fundraiser my contact is involved in.

The Main Street Defense Team is a voluntary operation that is fundraising to help one area of Myanmar. For obvious reasons, it has to remain a secret, hence the ubiquitous main street tag.

Even though the blog post of 31 March asks me to

Take a moment to imagine how your country, your community, your neighborhood, and your individual household would respond if the end of the world suddenly came down on you without warning. We’ve seen this in movies, but rarely have we seen such a vivid and horrific reality as what is now playing out in Myanmar.

I can’t. I can’t begin to relate. I’m in the relative safety and comfort of Ireland while people my age and younger and older are having to find the wherewithal within themselves to survive, to protect their families against a professional military that appears to have no qualms about killing unarmed civilians.

While civilians are banding together throughout the country in an attempt to reclaim the democracy they enjoyed for such a brief moment, this particular group is appealing for funds to support and protect 50 defenders.

These defenders are the ones who I hope are the strongest and most resilient as it’s their task to hold off the military so that other peaceful protesters can escape. They are the ones on the front line, the ones who bear the brunt of the military’s might. They’re putting their lives on the line so that the CDM can continue to protest against this coup. The alternative is unthinkable.

I read this with a growing sense of unease:

With no more funds left to draw upon, we urgently need some donation to buy and upgrade what protective equipment is needed against the assault we expect to come to our town, and to prevent the deaths and injuries that the soldiers will try to cause on us.

I can’t imagine living in my village, or my parents’ village, peacefully protesting against a coup d’etat, all the time waiting for the military to descend and wipe us out. I can’t. I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with that sort of fear and anxiety.

You might ask where I’ve been. Surely I know that this is going on all over the world. What makes Myanmar different? Why is it bothering me so much? Why do I feel so connected? [I hope none of you asks why I don’t concentrate on helping organisations closer to home – you know that I do.]

Perhaps I’m atoning for being so judgemental. Maybe it’s because I have a direct line to the fight. It might be because it’s Holy Week and something has to matter. I don’t know.

But this isn’t about me and my figaries. It’s about a group of young people who are desperately in need of protective equipment to arm themselves for safety.

Protective Shield $50
Helmet $20
Gas-Mask $10
Protective Vest $50
Goggles $10

$140 USD will fully provide all the needs for a single defender. To outfit 50, the number they feel they need to keep others safe and give them time to run for cover, they need $7,000 or the equivalent.

In a worrying development, I received this message last night:

The military is about to crack down even further on the Internet and people’s ability to communicate freely. The internet has been down every night for now 47 consecutive nights, mobile data is disabled for the last 18 days. And tonight, if the latest news is correct, internet and mobile data will be completely down until further notice. All that will remain is fibre, but access to this is so limited and also presents a real danger if you try to use it.

If you’re in a position to fundraise, to donate, to help in any way, please do. It’s difficult to get money to those on the ground – this is one way that works.

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2 Responses

  1. I’ve been reading your Myanmar posts. I read an interesting article about the Tatmadaw. Once you are in the Myanmar military, you are isolated, cut off from almost everything else in the outside world other than the military. The only point of view is one promoted by the commanders and religious leaders (monks) where you are brainwashed to believe that anyone who disagrees with the military leaders is the enemy. Dissidents, ethnic minorities like the Royhingya and Karen, elected leaders, anyone with views other than that promoted by the military. This is probably part of the reason Ang San Suu Kyi was unable to do much about the Royhingya crisis. It was the doing of the military over which she had no control, and she was walking a tightrope.
    And with the Tatmadaw, military families are brainwashed the same way, and now there are second and third generation members who know nothing else.
    Another article I reads said that in US military camps, in mess halls and barracks etc, Fox News and only Fox News, is going 24/7. This may well be part of the problem with US military personnel being radicalised, enough so some took part in storming the US Capitol.

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