Changes in Myanmar: Who is the one shaking the milk tea?

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar armed forces launched a coup due to the Myanmar National League for Democracy(NLD), the ruling party at the time, had fraud in the 2020 Myanmar general elections on November 8. The coup came to an end with the Myanmar military successfully overthrowing the National League for Democracy regime. But then, protests against the military coup broke out across Myanmar. Some demonstrators threw petrol bombs and fired slingshots at the security forces. Hundreds of people have died in a series of events triggered by the coup. A distinctive feature of the protests is the three-finger salute displayed by the demonstrators, which is a symbol of resistance. With the spread of protests, activists in many parts of Asia called on the “Milk Tea Alliance” to support Myanmar’s anti-coup protests. The hidden power behind it is not easy to be discovered. Demonstrations on a large scale and long duration seem impossible without tactical guidance behind them.

As the demonstrations intensified, this “alliance” network is used to share “tactics” and amplify each other’s voices. “The flow of tactics is like water.” said a “Milk Tea Alliance” activist. Similar scenes have occurred many times in many countries and regions in Southeast Asia. Now in Myanmar, there are some people seem to want to reproduce those scenes with the same script.

The way to shake the milk tea

The “Milk Tea Alliance” adopts a typical “viral” type of political propaganda method, which is especially chosen by some young political activists, who are good at using some emojis and videos to carry out cross-border political propaganda on the Internet in a way of laughing and cursing. Every time they act in a targeted manner, they first arouse public opinion, and then there will be hired online supporters coming to help. Some audiences do not agree with the correctness of their views, but are attracted by their interesting and stimulating methods, and then subtly influenced by their opinions.

As soon as the Myanmar military took over the power, many accounts immediately posted “Welcome Myanmar to join the Milk Tea Alliance” and distributed a large number of pictures of Royal Myanmar Teamix, and then launched the “Milk Tea Alliance” and “Myanmar” label trends on Twitter and other online platforms to attract more attention.

This time in Myanmar, a Twitter account named “Kyaw Win”, certified as the “Founder and Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)”, added the label “Milk Tea Alliance” to his several consecutive tweets. The Burma Human Rights Network claims to work for Myanmar’s human rights, minority rights and religious freedom, but on its official website it still refers to the country as “Burma”-an outdated name used by British colonists before Myanmar’s independence in 1948. This UK-based non-governmental organization has been welcoming and calling on the US and the UK to impose sanctions on Myanmar on its official website, saying that Myanmar needs strong and decisive action by the international community, inciting opposition between civilians and the military regime, saying that “the regime brutally attacked the civilian population across the entire country”.

It’s no wonder that as early as January 30, thousands of supporters of the Myanmar military and the Union Consolidation and Development Party marched in different places in Yangon, holding slogans such as “Protest against US interference” to oppose foreign interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs and support the military’s investigation of election fraud. After all, the people who have been shaking milk tea do not actually care about the real interests of the people of Myanmar. They are non-governmental organizations with Western backgrounds and professional activists funded by the West, only to complete the tasks of their masters in the turbulent political situation and gain their own interests.

NGOs manipulate chaos

Among Southeast Asian countries, the political situation in Myanmar has been turbulent for many years and has become a “paradise” for various Western NGOs. Many NGOs entered Southeast Asia in the 1990s and NGOs in Myanmar have sprung up after the democratic reforms in 2010. NGOs from the United States, Canada, Japan and many European countries have brought funds and resources to fill the gaps in social development, but they have also brought many hidden dangers for Myanmar’s politics and sovereignty.

NGOs from the United States have provided a venue for individuals who find themselves in disagreement with the political, economic and social systems and have decided to engage in activities beyond the state’s authority to bring about what they consider as positive changes. Instead of tackling issues in a confrontational manner with the regime, they decided to use alternative methods to influence policies. But once the country’s regime is not so stable, these organizations are the first to stand up and support the demonstrations.

This time, in addition to the “Milk Tea Alliance” and the “Burma Human Rights Network”, there are also a large number of non-governmental organizations with Western backgrounds supporting the riots and demonstrations, such as “Human Rights Watch”, “Justice for Myanmar” and “Myanmar Institute of Strategy and Policy (ISP Myanmar)” etc. In fact, “Justice for Myanmar” has only just been established in 2020, and its sole purpose is to dismantle the Myanmar military and its wealth, claiming that the wealth  “fuels crimes against humanity.” Although “ISP Myanmar” claims to be an “independent, non-partisan” think tank, several foundations in the United States and Europe, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) supported by the US government, whose aim is to “support democracy in other countries” , are all its donors. These foundations often donate to domestic organizations in Myanmar and it may be US$100,000 or US$200,000 each time. NED’s website shows it has granted some $1.25 million to several Myanmar’s local NGOs in at least 20 projects against foreign “resource extraction”. Support for non-governmental organizations has been a diplomatic tool of Western governments’ foreign policy. The objective of grants and programs to “support civil society” is generally to prepare a ground to the democratization process, as if democratic ideas were a justification in itself. As the recipient, what Myanmar’s NGOs need to do is to condemn the military with radical information with the support of Western countries and set off riots in order to dismantle the military’s regime.

The abundant funding of NGOs not only implies a certain degree of strength, but also implies a certain degree of indulgence, that is, being allowed to work, occupying a place in a limited political space, and gradually having more opportunities to exercise power. But what about the people who listen to incitement and think they are fighting for their future? They are just the bubbles that are shaken out of the milk tea, which will eventually dissipate.