I’ve been thinking a lot this week about people’s tolerance for bad news. There’s only so much people can take.
Yesterday marked 80 days since the military coup. 80 days of bad news. 80 days of people waking up in Myanmar and remembering what has happened. Twelve weeks of our emails focussing on what’s going on.
And we aren’t going to stop, partly because this isn’t the kind of situation where you can seek out silver linings, and also because it’s so important that people stay on top of what’s going on.
But we’re going to allow some space for good news too.
You’ll find our usual weekly update on the coup at the bottom of this email. But here at the top we’re going to fill you in on some fun things.
Given that we're on opposite sides of the world, our working methods have slightly changed. Our product development meetings now look like this:
Unorthodox, sure. But we’re working with what we’ve got. And despite everything going on, our makers are still working away, so we’re not going to stop either. Our Yangon Warehouse is absolutely packed, floor to ceiling. Even the birds have had to move out to make space. Our home is housing the overflow; there are Rangoon Chairs stacked in great towers in the sitting room, bamboo stools in neat lines along the hallway and beanbags jostling for space in the playroom.
But nobody is resting on their woven-laurels… as soon as the ports open, they’ll be jumping on the boat faster than you can say “FINALLY!!!”.
Without Covid, or the Coup, or indeed Coupvid, today’s email would be announcing the launch of a beautiful new collection. Seven pieces, a totally new material, a new family of makers to tell you about. But it’s sitting tight in Yangon for now, so we’ll have to just package up that anticipation for a while until we can get them over to the UK.
We’ve also been working for a while on our first Capsule Collection with somebody you are going to LOVE if you don’t know her already. Here’s a sneak preview of what she’s got planned…
And there’s something really special and super shiny coming this autumn. We hope.
But for now, we and our makers, and everyone in Myanmar need the daily horrors to abate, the international community to apply enough pressure in the right places and for the military to see sense.
In the meantime, we’re looking for some help from some of YOU. If you love what we do, have our products in your home and would be up for helping us with a little project, could you send us an email (email@example.com) and say PICK ME! Then we’ll tell you a bit more…
And if you haven’t got our products in your home yet, have a gander at what you might like. Lots of the shelves in our UK warehouse are rather bare, but some are still full of little jewels looking to brighten up your home.
What's happening in Myanmar?
Much of the last week fell over Myanmar’s annual New Year holiday. Every year, around this time, there is a traditional New Year amnesty of prisoners. This year 23,000 prisoners were released from jail, but none were those arrested since the coup. The families and friends of those released will have had a lot to celebrate, but for everybody else, the usual New Year festivities didn’t take place, with people choosing to boycott any form of normality.
There does seem to have been a slightly quieter pace for a few days. But this is a thin veil of calm, and will be partly due to reduced reporting from areas without connection. Despite this, there are still horror stories coming from all corners of the country. 250,000 people are now displaced from their homes by the military, with many living in the jungle. Mothers are giving birth on tarpaulins far from clean water or any form of comfort. 3300 people are still detained, 739 have been killed and over 1000 are hiding from arrest warrants.
Doctors and teachers are being targeted for participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Those charged have had their passports revoked. Private hospitals are having their licences revoked if they work with doctors involved in the CDM, putting them in a difficult position, and deepening the crisis in the healthcare industry.
The price of essentials like rice and cooking oil have risen by as much as 18% since the coup, signalling a decline towards a hunger crisis.
Seven more people have been sentenced to death, more celebrities have been arrested, and the military have been broadcasting images of tortured detainees on state television as a deterrent to those still protesting. There are reports of the military stopping and searching civilians and taking any cash they have on them. They’re demanding to search people’s phones (in order to charge them under section 505a of the sedition law), and are fining people who don’t have their phones on them so can’t be checked.
Soldiers continue to confiscate bodies. Some reports say they have dug up graves, removing bodies from memorial areas and reburying them in unmarked graves.
Military officials are allegedly turning a blind eye to these sorts of atrocities; an interview with a defected Major confirmed that brutality is coming from the top, and that anything looted or robbed is seen as a “reward for carrying out their duties”.
The commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing has been invited to the ASEAN summit taking place on Saturday. This is an acknowledgement nobody wanted, with critics arguing that the recently announced interim government, the National Unity Government, should be invited instead. UN Special Envoy to Myanmar will also be there, so it may be an opportunity for the first communication between them since the coup.
That said, the summit is unlikely to change anything. ASEAN has not historically responded meaningfully to authoritarianism among its member states. Despite the regional instability the coup is causing, it will be no surprise if the summit is inconclusive.
The announcement of the National Unity Government has been well received by many within Myanmar. There is much more diversity amongst its 15 ministers and 12 deputies than there was in the ousted NLD government, with greater representation of ethnic minorities. This is being seen as a time to build alliances, represent marginalised voices and patch up old rifts. However two of the most powerful ethnic groups are not represented, presumably because they have chosen not to be involved. And it is yet to be recognised as a legitimate government by any international country. There have been some vague assertions of support from some governments, but nothing resolute.
There is now a strict curfew from 6pm till 6am in parts of Yangon, power buzzing in and out as the oppressive heat of April builds. For most this means very long, hot nights with no communication.
How can you help?
The single best thing you can do is to stay up to date with what is going on. We will continue to update you weekly.
Beyond that, if you are looking to make a donation, Doh Eain's I Donation goes directly to families struggling to feed themselves at the moment and is being run and managed by our friend Emilie, so we can personally vouch for where the money is going. And here is a list of various ways you can donate, put together by other friends of ours, who are constantly verifying that the money is being channelled to the right places.
You can also subscribe to Frontier Myanmar, a brilliant independent local news organisation, who are bravely covering the stories every day. They are fantastic and we would urge you to consider signing up for membership.
As ever, buying from our makers is a totally direct way to help. We are continuing to place orders with them to replace our daily sales, which will be providing some stability amongst the chaos. Thank you to all of you who have been buying recently. If you're waiting for something in particular, sign up to the back in stock update and you'll be the first to know when they hit the shelves. For now, it's difficult to say when this will be, but we will keep you updated every week with any progress.