The military coup in Myanmar has heavily affected young people, who represent more than 30 per cent of the population. The military regime has brutally killed more than 3,000 innocent civilians and made more than 20,000 arrests, and young people have been leading the resistance since day one.
Young people have been active in protests and have employed different disobedience tactics, including social media campaigns, fundraising with gamification and click-to-donate. The oppressive rules limiting the rights and freedom of young people have even led many of them to take up arms to fight for their rights, as well as to defend their families and reclaim democracy.
But many groups of young people also spread the awareness of social cohesion, cultural diversity and conflict resolution, to help equip their peers as a foundation for future nation and state-building.
One youth-led platform in particular is still committed to peacebuilding and nation-building in the future. It is the School of Federalism and Peace Studies, Spring University Myanmar, founded and led by the younger generations of Myanmar. This pioneer academic platform offers three main activities: short courses, diploma courses and debate classes, with the theme of federalism and peace studies.
This platform for young individuals aims to educate and equip their peers, younger generations and the wider public with the necessary knowledge to comprehend the ongoing conflicts in Myanmar from both practical and academic perspectives.
The curriculum includes courses such as ‘Peace, Conflict, and Society’ and ‘Human Rights and Peacebuilding’, designed to foster an interdisciplinary understanding of present conflict patterns, violence, and human rights violations within society. Additionally, modules on genocide studies, humanitarian intervention, and the role of media in peacebuilding are incorporated to train young people to analyse current conflicts and encourage their involvement in conflict prevention, management, and action against the crimes committed against humanity in Myanmar.
The module on ‘Social Cohesion and Transitional Justice’ seeks to raise awareness among young individuals about the importance of transitional justice. It encourages them to exert more effort in promoting justice at the community and national levels.
A School representative said, “Young people are actively involved in revolutionary movements for the restoration of democracy and claiming the peaceful federal state. On the other hand, our younger generations need to access the understanding of important ingredients of future peacebuilding. That is what we are doing. We train the young people to understand the transitional justice and genocide studies to apply in their relevant works and put efforts to avoid such ugly crimes against humanity in the future.”
After the military coup, there has been significantly increased hate speech and polarisation within the society due to the different political beliefs and affiliations. There also has been spread of misinformation and ethno-religious divides, which have been used by the military to divide the public. To contribute to combating this, the School’s training equips young people to recognising and undermining these manipulated narratives of hate within the community.
The School offers a training programme focusing on dialogue and debate to enhance critical thinking and foster an authentic community dialogue culture. It is worth noting that the international community has consistently emphasised the importance of dialogue, but the military regime has often manipulated these dialogue arrangements, resulting in negative responses from the younger generations and the people. Therefore, it is crucial to educate the younger generations on the true essence and purpose of authentic dialogue and its potential applications.
Looking to the future
Given the political situation in Myanmar, the areas beyond any government control have been expanding, leaving the local people to decide how to deal with the conflicts in their areas in their own ways. Dialogue can serve as a viable pathway for progress in these circumstances.
To achieve the desired peaceful, democratic, and federal nation, internal cohesion is critical. Dialogue can enhance social cohesion within the community to have a common goal and objective for future nation and state-building. To prepare the younger generations for involvement in nation and state-building, they need to be equipped with essential skills such as critical thinking, research, presentation, and debate.
This school platform can be considered a pioneering space where young people can learn the skills and competencies to actively participate in conflict resolution, monitoring, social cohesion, and future nation and state-building. While much attention is often directed towards resistance and revolution, this group of young people focuses on the future of Myanmar, dedicating their efforts to peacebuilding and preparing their peers for the challenges ahead.
Currently, this school platform is under-resourced and ask for the cooperation and any assistance for the sustainability. These kinds of works should have more access to resources and support.
“Those in the conflict need to understand peace and how to build peace. If they do not know how to make or build peace, there will always be problem-solving through violence, even in the future,” said a representative from the School.