The current Burmese military junta, never long on popular legitimacy and short on ideas to seize it, uses Burmese history to lionize the military and glorify armed resistance in the struggle against foreign rule and occupation. In reality, as this chapter reveals, civil resistance and its wide variety of nonviolent tactics had been an integral and driving force of Burmese resistance against the British between 1910 and 1940. Although the difficulty of maintaining greater unity and discipline as well as the armed struggle against the Japanese occupation undermined civil resistance, it nevertheless gave birth to and shaped national consciousness during its three decades. Among other actions, civil resisters established organizations capable of mass mobilization, and launched various campaigns and constructive programs, often inspired by--and done in cooperation with--Gandhi’s movement developing in neighboring India.
Bangladesh is thought to have been born through blood, fire and the gun-barrel. Indeed, a nine-month long armed resistance against the Pakistani military in 1971 preceded independence and played a significant role in winning the freedom. However, another equally critical factor is often overlooked. From the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, Bengalis resorted to civil resistance, adopted various forms of nonviolent methods to challenge oppressive political structures, and pressed for greater political and cultural rights. In particular, a civic mobilization for the Bangla language and the popular movement of March 1971 are seen as important “shapers” of Bengalis’ national consciousness and “enablers” of the emergence of semi-independent political and civic structures of East Pakistan. These achievements of civil resistance pre-dated the armed resistance, but it was the latter’s contribution to the independence struggle that has long been mostly acknowledged and glorified and immortalized in various media forms.
Political contention in West Papua has long been marginal to the concerns of the international community. However, West Papua is a major source of global resource wealth, and home to a long-standing conflict that has the potential to reshape the political landscape in Indonesia and the region. The media has also misrepresented resistance in the island through romantic portrayals of half-naked indigenous people with little more than spears, bows and arrows, waging a guerrilla war against the Indonesian state. The main story, however, is of a modern and savvy movement of women, students, young people, religious leaders, and traditional chiefs who since 1998 have employed nonviolent methods to wage political conflict in West Papua and transform their relationship to the Indonesian state. This chapter examines the history of the nonviolent movement in West Papua, the methods of civil resistance employed by the local population, as well as the interrelationships between strategic and collective nonviolent resistance on the one hand, and the West Papuan identity and nationalism on the other.