Myanmar activists launch ‘Blue Shirt’ campaign to show solidarity with political prisoners

Myanmar anti-coup activists are wearing blue shirts in solidarity with political prisoners. Photo from The Irrawaddy. Used with permission.

Myanmar’s pro-democracy forces have initiated a global “Blue Shirt” campaign to show solidarity with political prisoners, especially the over 10,000 people who were arrested after the February 2021 coup.

The Myanmar military grabbed power after it accused the former ruling party of committing electoral fraud. The military ruled Myanmar for several decades until a civilian government was allowed to head the government in 2012. Despite the reforms, the military has guaranteed seats in the Cabinet and Parliament. The military-backed party lost in the 2015 and 2020 elections.

The coup was opposed from the start by citizens who wanted to restore civilian rule. To silence the opposition, the junta cracked down on activists, journalists, artists, scholars, and those accused of supporting the opposition.

The junta released around 1,600 prisoners in an amnesty to mark the Burmese New Year on April 17, but there were no political prisoners among those released.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners announced the campaign on April 21 and highlighted the growing number of prisoners as the military government continues to detain individuals accused of supporting the Civil Disobedience Movement and the National Unity Government.

It has been over a year since the military junta attempted to illegally seize power in a coup d’état. People’s resistance, in many shapes and forms, has continued for over a year. 10,271 political prisoners, 996 of whom have been sentenced whilst 9,275 await trial, remain unlawfully detained since the Spring Revolution. The terrorist group has been arbitrarily detaining, torturing and imprisoning dissidents, so they can have power.

April 21 marked the eighth anniversary of the death of former political prisoner Win Tin, a prominent journalist and founding member of the National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel laureate and former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. After 19 years in jail, Win Tin was released in 2008, but he continued to wear a blue prison shirt in solidarity with political prisoners who remained in detention. He vowed to continue wearing a blue shirt until all political prisoners have been released.

The “Blue Shirt” campaign is both a tribute to the sacrifices of Win Tin and other pro-democracy leaders and an urgent call to the international community to continue speaking out for the immediate release of anti-coup activists. Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, senior advocacy officer at Burma Campaign UK, echoed this call.

These activists bravely stood up against the military coup, but the world seems to have forgotten about them. The international community must speak out for political prisoners in Burma and call for their immediate, unconditional release.

Individuals and groups in and outside of Myanmar are using the hashtag #blueshirt4burma in support of the campaign.

This Twitter thread provides testimonies of former political prisoners

Residents in a Sagaing village have joined the campaign, which reflects the surge in resistance in the northwestern region of the country.

Artists are also joining the campaign. One anonymous artist shared an illustration in support of the prisoners:

The embassies of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States have tweeted their support. Members of the European Union delegation in Myanmar also endorsed the campaign.

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