Voices from Burma's Borderlands

Voices from Burma's Borderlands

“Hnoung Eain Thin”

Guest Contributor

Please believe me. I don’t know what will happen in your countries. It is strange to be considered a thief in our country. In many countries, taking property without the knowledge of the owner is considered a thief. Not so with us. He is only a thief if he steals a few things. If you steal a lot of things, you are no longer a thief. Especially state-owned resources such as mineral gems, If they steal forests, etc., they are no longer thieves. In addition to not being thieves, they are respected as state authorities. There have been more than 60 years of incidents of big thieves catching and imprisoning small thieves in Myanmar. No matter which department of the government you look at, they are full of thieves. I want to tell you an example. An engineer responsible for paving the road had already built his new house before the road was finished. There is one more thing. The cops in charge of areas dominated by drug cartels get rich instantly. Drugs are destroying the future of young people. In order to sell these drugs easily, the sellers bribed the police with money. Police across the country are desperately trying to serve in these areas. This is the bottom staff. I will continue to talk about the big thieves in the upper part. The regime’s leaders and relatives are very rich. 

People who work long hours in the sun to earn a family’s worth of rice. Children who drop out of school because they can’t stay in school are selling flowers at traffic lights. Children become conductors. Children who become waiters at tea shops, While the bottom layer, such as the children who had to go down to the fields, were battered people. As for those who are involved with the military leaders, they spend the money like water. They sell a lot of resources such as natural gas… and put the dollars that can be sold into their pockets. People were so hungry that they started shoplifting, robbery, etc. Just think about how hungry they can be. If they had to watch their children go hungry again, anyone would conspire, steal, and rob. At that time, the military leader’s subordinates arrested him and put him in prison. This reminds me of the phrase “big thief catches little thieves” and “big robber catches little robbers”. 

I still want to tell you about education under the junta. From Kindergarten to 9th grade, there are automatically pass and then there are 4th, 8th, and 10th graders who are checked by Government. This is an amazing exam system.Many university students study almost a month before the exam and when they are about to pass, the teachers tell them the questions they will ask. But if you don’t attend tuition from them, you can’t get it at all. Such a battered education system, when more people graduate, there is no way to become educated young people who can benefit the country. Then no other country recognizes the degree from Myanmar. They had to stand in the middle of the world as people with low education. But the military leaders and their relatives and friends are not like that. They have been going to school abroad since they were young, otherwise they were only placed in high-ranking schools where only military leaders and relatives and friends could attend. In this way, the country began to operate with uneducated graduates and went to the bottom of the world. When uneducated teachers teach, they become uneducated students. Uneducated parents could not teach their uneducated children. They couldn’t tell you about democracy and human rights. They don’t know themselves. 

How poor the people were, they had to eat only broken rice and boiled vegetables. Finally, they couldn’t stand it and protested for democracy and human rights. In the 1988 Uprising and the 2007 Saffron Revolution, the students were brutally killed by military leaders. After that, the military leaders gradually began to hide their identity while covering up the crimes they had committed. 

The 2008 Constitution, which they drafted according to their wishes, brought long-term benefits to the well-being of soldiers and their families. Then, the National League for Democracy, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won the election and became the government. We only got a half democracy. Judiciary, interior and all armed departments were held by the Chief of the Armed Forces. According to the provisions of the 2008 Constitution, 25% of the parliament must be representatives of the military. Whether you’ve not heard of it, whether you know it or not, it’s the laws set by the golden wisdom of military leaders who don’t exist in the world. The government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi only worked for the development of the country in the small area that was given to them out of pity. When the country has reached the stage of recovery, the students and people population has only smelled the smell of democracy’s cuisine. The modern-day military leader, who admired the military leaders of the past, accused the government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of cheating and stealing votes, and started a coup d’état. Like previous protests, the students were brutally killed again. 

What is different about the previous revolution is the people’s political horizon. In 1988, people had no human rights, so when the revolution failed, they returned to a life where they had nothing. Now, in the 21st Century, they have felt the vapor of democratic human rights. As I said above, they don’t want to return to the bad past. Then, the education system has started to rise. There are educated children, they have knowledge and science, and their ideas are better because they have opened up contact with the world. The tide is no longer the same as in 1988. There, the struggle between the dictator and the people has become more intense than before, the teenagers called Generation Z know the taste of freedom, and they don’t want to return to the military dictatorship. That’s where they began to fight desperately. When they found out that the coup had taken place, the young people experienced what they had read in the history books. In Mandalay, I heard that the group led by Dr. Tayzar San has started to show its will, so many young people in our town, including me, are active. 

I would like to tell you a little about the spring revolution in the town that I personally experienced. The night before the seizure of power, I went to my grandfather’s house to take care of him when grandfather was sick. After giving my grandfather medicine at night, I went to sleep. At six in the morning, the phone rang, and it was from my lovely Nyein saying, “There has been a coup d’état, and Daw Su and U Win Myint were arrested at three in the morning.” The phone lines went dead. I quickly got up and told my grandfather. Some people in the city are saying that there has been a coup d’état. I went to see a friend quickly. I don’t know what to do with him. I know how it feels. I feel like I can’t tell. I have come to the realization that democracy and human rights have been destroyed. Then I recalled the years of military rule that were full of tragedies. 

Thus, the telephone lines and television lines were cut off. Six days later, I was prepared to do something. Together with three other Student Union leaders, a decision was immediately made to organize motorcycle ride protests across Taungoo. I led the troop of riders in protest as we held up the three-finger salute of resistance and shouted slogans.

In the days that followed the coup, the motorcycle protest transformed into a march and acts of civil disobedience. Hundreds of thousands of people had joined the movement from all sorts of professions like education, the health sector, banking and universities. Self-designed pamphlets were distributed to coordinate a night-time pots-and-pans-banging protest against the coup.

A few weeks after the coup, we created a Steering Committee for protests with different leaders representing a variety of professional backgrounds. We held committee meetings every night to reach a consensus on the details of the next nonviolent action (gathering place and time as well as route, if for a march). We also formed volunteer medical teams to assist protesters in case of a brutal crackdown.

On March 8 last year, a large anti-coup protest we organized at No. (1) Taungoo Street and No. (6) Taungoo Street was brutally repressed by the military and police using tear gas and ammunition. Hundreds of protesters including myself had to cross a nearby river and hide in a forest until the military troops left. Amid this crisis, I had to hide in different places to stay the night. In my absence, close friends told me that my house was raided five times by military and police and was under surveillance for quite some time. When one of my fellow activists was arrested following the March protest, interrogators asked him if he had recently communicated with me. They showed him my photo and mentioned my name as the leader of the anti-coup protest. The interrogators also labeled me as the main supporter and propagandist of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a democratic parliament in exile that opposes the junta.

Moreover, I was told that anti-coup activists were even tortured if my name or pen name was found on their phone contact list. When the military raided the hotel LaMin Aine, where we hid for some time, we had to hide in the penthouse pool for about one hour keeping our heads under the water as much as possible. Shortly after the hotel was raided, many of my fellow activists were arrested. I was lucky enough to escape, though I am still on the wanted list issued for Taungoo anti-coup protests. All of these are just a few of my experiences. Details will be given later.

In the current situation, the health of our country is very bad and it is deteriorating from side to side. The problem of raising prices The problem of fuel scarcity has started to affect the lives of the people. What will be done if these incidents have only lasted for many years like in the past? The country cannot imagine. Master U Aung Thin once said that if education and health are not good in a country, that country is ruined. As Master said, I am really worried that it will be a long time. I would like to urge world leaders and organizations like the United Nations to help Burma carefully. Let us all try not to live under a dictator for many years.