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Teachers on the run: striking public sector workers hunted by Myanmar’s military | Myanmar coup

When hundreds of thousands of workers across the country walked out of their jobs in protest at the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, Grace* was among the first to join.

Although she was seven months pregnant, the middle-school teacher from Chin state was determined to resist the military by refusing to work under its administration. Joining her was her husband, also a government employee.

What they didn’t then know was that nearly a year later, their hands, once accustomed to holding chalk and pens, would instead be holding hoes and shovels, calloused and blistered from farming under the scorching sun. Nor did they ever imagine that they would be living in hiding, on the run from soldiers and police.

“My husband and I decided to strike soon after the coup was staged. For fear of being arrested by the police, we haven’t been able to return home for nine months,” says Grace, talking to the Guardian from an undisclosed location.


What is the Reporting Myanmar series?


In February 2021, Myanmar’s progress towards democracy was brutally stalled when the military seized power and took control of the country.  

In the year since, the country has been plunged into violence, poverty and mass displacement as the military attempts to crush widespread resistance to its rule. 

Internet blackouts, arbitrary arrests, a ruthless curtailing of freedom of speech and escalating military attacks on civilian areas have silenced the voices of people from Myanmar.  

For this special series, the Guardian’s Rights and freedom project has partnered with a diverse group of journalists from Myanmar, many working in secret, to bring their reporting on life under military rule to a global audience.

Journalists in Myanmar are working in dangerous and difficult circumstances, as the military government attacks the free press and shuts down local media outlets. Many reporters still inside the country fear arrest, with others forced to leave their homes and go into hiding in areas increasingly under attack from military forces. 

All the reporting in this series will be carried out by journalists from Myanmar, with support from the editors on the Rights and freedom project.

These are the stories that journalists from Myanmar want to tell about what is happening to their country at this critical moment.

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“Two of my family members were arrested because of me. Our houses were raided. We have no regular source of income and have to struggle every day to make a living. But never have I ever regretted joining the civil disobedience movement, not even once. We are part of the revolution against the military dictatorship.”

In the year since the coup, Myanmar has been plunged into chaos and a spiralling economic crisis as the military responds to the widespread civilian defiance to its rule with deadly violence and mass arrests.


Some of its main targets are the hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, including teachers, nurses and doctors participating in a campaign of civil disobedience and refusing the serve the regime.

Public hospitals are barely functioning, and when state schools opened in June, more than half the teachers were absent. Private and public bank workers have also been striking en masse, and even withdrawing cash is now near-impossible.

In an effort to crush the movement and make people return to their jobs, military forces have started hunting down striking public sector workers across the country and raiding their homes.

Since the strikes began in February, at least 140 people have been arrested for their participation, of whom 107 remain in detention, the Guardian was told by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Myanmar-focused rights monitoring group.

The AAPP says at least eight of those taking part in the civil disobedience movement have died in military interrogation centres, and seven of the bodies showed signs of torture.

Families have also been targeted. Since the coup, 46 people have been taken as hostages in an attempt to force their family members participating in civil disobedience to turn themselves in; 39 of these hostages are still in custody, according to the AAPP.

Grace went into labour shortly after she left her home. With family members being targeted by police raids, she was so scared of being arrested she registered at the hospital under a fake name. Her husband did not dare accompany her.

The military has also attempted to force those who are taking part in the strikes to return to work by making it harder for them to survive. It has evicted thousands from worker housing, and stopped paying salaries. Last May, more than 125,000 striking teachers had their contracts suspended in an attempt to try and force them back into the classroom.

The Guardian spoke with seven teachers in Chin state who are still on strike. They all said their only financial support was community donations, which were irregular and amounted to less than half of their former income.

For Grace and her family this is not enough to survive. In June, the couple began farming corn. On weekends, they sell fried snacks to make ends meet. They still face the constant risk of arrest.

As violence and military attacks escalate across the country, many teachers and other public sector workers who have gone on strike are now also living under the shadow of war. Since May, fighting has dramatically increased. The military has sought to quell armed resistance by attacking entire civilian populations, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 400,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

Fires in Thantlang in Chin State, where more than 160 buildings have been destroyed caused by shelling from Junta military troops.
Fires in Thantlang in Chin State, where more than 160 buildings have been destroyed caused by shelling from Junta military troops. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Intensifying military attacks caused Ling Kee*, a high school headteacher who joined the civil disobedience movement and went on strike last year, to leave the town of Thantlang in August with his three adult daughters, also strikers, and his wife.

Map of displaced people in Myanmar

They took shelter with relatives in Hakha township, but a month later had to flee again upon hearing that soldiers were going door to door hunting down strikers. With nothing but the nightclothes they were wearing, they drove motorbikes through the night along mountain roads until they crossed the border into India. .

Unable to work there, they are relying on their savings to survive.

Students have also joined taken action against military-run services. After weeks of protests over a military “slave education system” in May, only 10% of the country’s nearly 10 million people of school age registered this year, according to the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation.

When state schools opened across the country in June, many of them guarded by armed soldiers, classrooms were empty.

To ensure that youth do not miss out on their education, churches, civil society organisations and striking teachers have established multiple grassroots education channels, supported by community donations. But funds are limited, and teachers also worry that their classes could get caught in the crossfire of the ongoing fighting, a teacher from Kanpetlet township told the Guardian.

Biak* had just one year of high school left when the coup happened.

Now living in a refugee camp in Mizoram, India, after her home was destroyed in a military attack, she is unable to study because there are no education facilities. “Currently, my family doesn’t have a house to live in, and I have no chance to study. All of my dreams were reduced to ashes, just like the homes in Thantlang, including mine,” she says.

* Pseudonyms have been used for security reasons

Sui Meng Par is an independent researcher from Chin State, Myanmar and writes about current issues in Chin State. She holds a master’s degree from Chiang Mai University.

Additional editing by Emily Fishbein

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The US, Japan and the Philippines close ranks against Beijing’s pressure in the South China Sea | U.S.

China was not present, but it was the main protagonist. The first trilateral meeting between the leaders of the United States, Japan and the Philippines on Thursday at the White House sought to provide a show of unity in the face of China’s increasingly intense pressure on Manila in the South China Sea, where the Asian giant claims sovereignty over almost all of the area and maintains a bitter territorial dispute with the archipelago. Washington has described Beijing’s tactics as “intimidation.”

The Philippine and Chinese vessels have engaged in increasingly frequent and hostile skirmishes in an area of the South China Sea that the United States calls the Second Thomas Atoll, and which the Philippines know as the Ayungin Shoal. There, Manila maintains a military garrison in an old, rusty warship — which it intentionally ran aground in the reef — to reinforce its territorial claims in the reef. Chinese ships patrol the area and try to stop the vessels that come to supply it with water cannons and lasers.

The most serious incident in recent weeks took place at the end of March, when Chinese ships fired a water cannon at a Philippine logistics ship that was trying to bring supplies to the military personnel stationed in the shoal, which is located within 200 miles of the Philippines exclusive economic zone. That episode sparked loud protests in Manila, which were backed by Washington. For the United States, Beijing’s tactics amount to coercion and violate international law in waters that are considered one of the most volatile areas on the planet. U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the issue during his telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 2.

At the start of the trilateral meeting on Thursday, Biden warned that any attack against Philippine forces in the South China Sea would be grounds to apply the mutual defense treaty between Washington and Manila, which was signed in 1951. He said that U.S. forces would come to support its ally.

“I want to be clear, the United States’ defense commitments to Japan and to the Philippines are ironclad. They’re ironclad. Any attack on Philippine aircraft, vessels or armed forces in the South China Sea would invoke our mutual defense treaty,” said Biden.

The president met separately with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shortly before the trilateral meeting. The previous day, he received Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was on a semi-official visit to the White House. The three countries share deep distrust over China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia Pacific and the Asian giant’s territorial claims, which an international court deemed baseless in 2016.

The Philippines and China are in dispute over the South China Sea, while Japan and China have conflicting claims in the East China Sea over islands Japan knows as Senkaku and China identifies as Diaoyu. Manila — which during Rodrigo Duterte’s mandate tried to get closer to Beijing — has resolutely aligned itself with Washington since Marcos’ election. The Philippine president is completing his second official visit to Washington in just over a year.

Tokyo, meanwhile, is investing rapidly in building up its defense in a bid to transform its army into the third most powerful in the world. In their bilateral meeting on Wednesday, Kishida and Biden announced the biggest upgrade to the Japan-U.S. security alliance in more than 60 years. The plan includes greater coordination between their commands and the joint development of cutting-edge military technologies.

“The United States, Japan, and the Philippines are three closely-aligned maritime democracies with increasingly convergent strategic objectives and interests,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.

At the end of the meeting, the leaders said they will announce a Coast Guard patrol in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. Coast Guard will also admit members of the Philippine and Japanese corps on these patrols for training, according to senior U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden also announced the establishment of a new economic corridor in the Philippines for infrastructure development and agricultural projects, among other investments.

This week’s bilateral and trilateral meetings are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to develop a network of economic and security alliances in the Indo-Pacific to respond to China.

“Today’s summit is an opportunity to define the future that we want, and how we intend to achieve it together,” Marcos told the press on Thursday. “This meeting can be just a beginning. Facing the complex challenges of our time requires concerted efforts on everyone’s part, a dedication to a common purpose and an unwavering commitment to the rules-based international order.”

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The worst version of Nicaragua against the best version of Germany | International

It may be a noble cause, but its champion couldn’t be worse. The Nicaraguan dictatorship, recently censured by the United Nations for severe human rights abuses akin to crimes against humanity, has criticized Germany for arming Israel, and especially for elevating Israel’s security and right to exist to a “matter of state,” as defined by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her historic 2008 address to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).

Nicaragua and Germany signed the 1948 Genocide Convention, which commits both nations to preventing and punishing genocide, as well as arbitration by the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ). Much like an earlier ICJ case brought by South Africa against Israel, Nicaragua is accusing Germany of facilitating breaches of the Genocide Convention by providing arms and other support to Israel. Nicaragua wants Berlin to stop weapon supplies and prevent weapons already given from being used in Gaza, and resume financing UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency in Gaza that has been accused of infiltration by Hamas.

Nicaragua filed the case against Germany because it was unable to do so against the United States, a long-time adversary of the Sandinista regime. Forty years ago, Nicaragua filed an ICJ case against the U.S. over its support of guerrillas fighting the Sandinista regime. Washington is a key weapons supplier to Israel and a signatory of the Convention. However, the U.S. took 40 years to ratify it, and only after significant amendments that gave the U.S. power of approval over any charges against the nation. Samantha Power, the current chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and former ambassador to the U.N., once likened this scenario to granting an accused murderer the authority to approve any charges brought against him.

This is the third case brought to the ICJ during the Gaza war. The first one, initiated by South Africa, resulted in two warnings for Israel to ensure humanitarian aid and civilian security. The second case, focusing on the consequences of the occupation, highlighted international support for the Palestinian State. The ICJ is not expected to quickly rule on the genocide case, but it adds to increasing U.N. and global pressure on Netanyahu for a lasting ceasefire.

Germany today is at its finest, driven by its sense of responsibility stemming from a tragic history. It stands as a staunch advocate for multilateralism and the international rule of law. Germany’s defense against Nicaragua’s charges is solid and its legitimacy as a democratic state is unassailable. Unlike the United States, it fully acknowledges the ICJ’s jurisdiction and the binding nature of its rulings. And all it needs to reverse the increasing polarization between the global south and the liberal West is full recognition of the Palestinian State’s right to exist.

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How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Entrepreneurial Mindset & Startup Triumph

The Voice Of EU | In today’s dynamic world of startups, achieving exceptional growth isn’t a one-shot endeavor. It demands more than a stroke of luck or a hidden formula; it requires an unwavering entrepreneurial mindset, a steadfast commitment, and consistent, sustained effort.

How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Picture Credits: PS Vault

In the subsequent sections, I’ll dissect five crucial factors to high-performance growth psychology that can steer your startup towards unprecedented success.

1. The Primacy of Communication

In the quest for growth, it’s commonplace for companies to prioritize feature development over precise language. Yet, this approach is fundamentally misguided. Language should precede all else.

The words you choose to articulate your product and company not only define your identity but also establish user expectations. Your choice of language wields significant influence, shaping how users perceive and engage with your offering. For example, a ridesharing service becomes exponentially more appealing when it promises a ride in four minutes or less.

User-Centric Empathy

Successful Founders distinguish themselves by their ability to think beyond their product and focus on the users. It’s imperative to understand how users think and feel, considering the intricate web of their lives.

To truly stand out, you must ask, “What does my product mean to them, and how does it fit into their world?” Behind every thriving tech company lies a profound insight into human psychology, a key that resonates with users’ needs and desires.

Perpetual Motion

In a landscape dominated by industry giants, speed emerges as your greatest ally. Much like the ancient shrew that thrived through ceaseless motion, startups must embrace a similar philosophy, “be creative, be dynamic.”.

To navigate the whirlwind of rapid changes and outmaneuver larger competitors, you must be in perpetual motion. Swift experimentation, rapid iteration, and an unwavering forward momentum are the cornerstones of sustained growth.

The Embrace of Data

Commitment to measurement is the engine driving growth. Being truly data-driven is not merely a buzzword, but a fundamental philosophy. Devoting substantial engineering resources to measurement, up to half of your total, demonstrates a genuine love for data. It should be an integral part of your company culture, displayed prominently for all to see. Your daily stats should be a source of pride and a testament to your dedication to growth.

Resilience in the Face of Setbacks

Failure is a constant companion on the path to growth. Embracing a mindset that can endure these setbacks is crucial. Most initiatives will yield negative outcomes, and being able to move forward despite this is paramount.

It’s a psychology of resilience, encapsulated in the saying, ‘Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm‘. This grit and determination are the keys to achieving substantial growth.

Implementing Growth Psychology

To instill these growth-oriented mindsets in your team, consider the following steps:

1. Teach the mentality, particularly the willingness to endure repeated small failures.

2. Clarify that every member is directly responsible for growth, regardless of their official role.

3. Provide your team with the authority to drive product changes and allocate resources for growth.

4. Encourage your team to be more aggressive in pushing growth boundaries.

5. Keep taking big swings and be open to creative, high-risk strategies.

Ultimately, growth is a collective effort, but it hinges on the psychology of the CEO. Founders shape their startups through consistent actions and decisions.

Cultivating the right growth psychology can be the difference between sluggish progress and exponential success. It empowers your company with data-driven visibility, constant momentum, and the audacity to aim for 1000% growth.

If you’re in the latter camp, reach out to us to explore further opportunities for growth.

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— By Raza Qadri | Business, Science & Technology Contributor “The Voice Of EU

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