Three Fingers captures a young child poignantly raising three fingers during a non-violent protest in Hpa-an, Kayin state, Myanmar. The child’s three-fingered salute is a symbol of defiance and solidarity for pro-democracy movements across south-east Asia. Since February 2021, Myanmar has been embroiled in an internal political crisis, the Civil Disobedience Movement, which is the largest peaceful protest in the country since the 2007 Saffron Revolution.
On 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, blocked elected ministers and members of the legislature from taking their seats on the opening session of the 2021 government after a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the November 2020 elections, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Alleging election fraud, the junta took absolute control of the country and detained ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and numerous other NLD government elected officials.
The Tatmadaw justified seizing control of the country under a provision in Myanmar’s constitution that allows the military to take control in the event of a national emergency. After seizing power, the military quickly took control of national infrastructure, shutting down flights, blocking most television broadcasts, cutting off mobile phone and internet access and imposing additional nightly curfews in major cities. In response, people from all ethnicities across the country took to the streets to oppose the military coup. As the peaceful protests grew daily to include millions across the country, the military intensified its brutal crackdown using increasingly violent and lethal force, including the use of water cannons, rubber bullets, and live ammunition. External groups have verified that at least 800 protesters, including children, monks, and bystanders have been killed and approximately 4,120 detained, though in-country reporting suggests the number of casualties is much higher. On 27 March 2021, the single deadliest day of the protests to date, over 100 people were killed.
As demonstrations continue, sources have reported the Tatmadaw is continuing to target all protestors and civil society leaders with raids and searches, detention and torture, and threats against their families. Outside of major city centres, the military is reportedly quashing resistance by ordering aggressive attacks and airstrikes on villages and towns, particularly in Chin, Kachin and Kayin states. An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced across southeast Myanmar, as escalating violence has created a humanitarian crisis.