Provoking civilian disruption against popular protests: The role of counter-mobilisation strategies by the Myanmar military

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While mass contentious movements face a wide range of state-led counter-mobilisation strategies, existing studies have mainly focused on repression by the security forces and violence contractors. Much less is understood about the impact of governments’ more deceptive strategies to provoke anti-protester hostility among the public, including labelling protesters as criminals and engineering widespread violent crimes. This article examines the effectiveness of these two types of strategy by juxtaposing two similar cases of popular protests under military-ruled Myanmar: the 1988 Four-eight Uprising and 2007 Saffron Revolution. The analysis leverages a novel qualitative dataset consisting of content from state media, authoritative secondary sources, as well as original interviews and written accounts by 109 civilians who witnessed or participated in the protest events. It is found that while anti-protester narratives were ineffective, orchestration of criminal activities targeting civilians on a large scale fuelled civilian distrust toward strangers, leading adult men to disrupt protest events by unfamiliar activists. This finding underscores both the crucial role of nurturing inter-group trust in order to grow a broad-based contentious front as well as the challenging conditions for doing so when a regime is steadfastly committed to crushing dissent.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - contentious movement, counter-mobilisation, Myanmar, mililtary rule, protest disruption

ID: 321852832