In Part 2 of a 3-part series by Real Stories Not Tales (RSNT), Ko Democracy (pseudonym) tells us how the coup has affected his life and his loved ones in Myitkyina.
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 3-part special feature of stories from a report by Real Stories Not Tales. Access to the full report will be available in Part 3 of this series.
Ko Democracy is a young Gorkha man working for a social enterprise in Kachin State. He was interviewed on May 6.
We live in a globalized world. A fight for democracy in one place is a fight for democracy everywhere, for all citizens. I want to ask the world to help us, not as hypocrites but honestly and truly as human beings.
When I woke up on the morning of February 1, I noticed I had no phone signal. Then my dad came back from the bazaar and said the Myanmar military was everywhere, especially around the NLD party headquarters and residences of NLD representatives. I decided to go for a ride on my motorbike to see what was going on, and indeed there were military trucks and soldiers with guns blocking the roads. It felt so wrong—as if we were going backwards. I feared we would be disconnected from the outside world very soon. I had all these thoughts spinning around in my head, and I knew that the military was going to torture us. Despite the tragic news, I decided to go to the office. On the way, I got stopped by a soldier that wouldn’t let me enter the district where our office was. I had to talk to him for a while, until he finally let me go.
When the coup happened, I was working as a field staff and interpreter in a social enterprise. Our main office was in Myitkyina, but we mostly worked in villages close to the Chinese border. Everything became so difficult for us after the coup. First off, we suddenly had no access to money because the banks closed, so we couldn’t pay salaries or transport fees. Then, because of the internet shutdown, it became challenging for us to communicate with the local partners implementing our projects. After two months, we finally decided we couldn’t keep the enterprise running, so I’m jobless now.
All my work worries haven’t stopped me from participating in the resistance movement. As soon as the coup happened, we went out into the streets, and we continue to do so, this time in the form of so-called ‘guerrilla strikes’. Unfortunately, one of my friends from the student union has already been arrested, and we don’t even know where he is. Another friend is in jail and has been charged under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code. I have just come back from hiding myself. I was away from home for a month: I feared the military would come look for me after arresting my friends. As I have been very involved in the movement, I am paranoid now. I am scared that one day they’ll take my phone and find out all about my involvement and my contacts.
I am not directly involved with the KIA or KIO, but I do have some contacts, and I have been giving them to people who want to join the armed resistance. I encourage them and would also do it myself if it weren’t for my parents. I am their only child, and I know it would break their heart. Still, we have agreed that if things get worse, they will allow me to go and fight for our freedom. Until then, I will continue practicing ‘civil resistance’: not paying taxes and not attending university.
The military sees young people across the country as their enemies. They have been arresting, kidnapping, and killing people every single day. People are under serious pressure to go back to work, since the military arrests anyone participating in the CDM. If they don’t or can’t find the strikers, they arrest their family members instead. Recently the focus has been on teachers and students who do not want to go to school. Last night we heard six bomb explosions very close to our house. These terrible troubles are what dominate our lives now.
It is a difficult time for us all. To stay strong, I listen to spiritual leaders. I very much like Sadhguru, who said that that no one can torture you unless you accept the torturing yourself. What he meant by that is that the power inside of us cannot be taken away unless we give it away ourselves. I also get inspired by the strength and resilience of IDPs in the Kachin and Karen Hills. I tell myself that I still have food and shelter, so I shouldn’t complain.
We live in a globalized world. A fight for democracy in one place is a fight for democracy everywhere, for all citizens. I want to ask the world to help us, not as hypocrites but honestly and truly as human beings. We do not have that much hope in the UN anymore due to its bureaucracies, but we do need the National Unity Government (NUG) to be recognized in order for other countries to be able to legally sell arms to them. So please help us with this. At the same time, the military regime must not be recognized as a legal government. Please also allow our Myanmar citizens to get visa extensions in your countries; don’t force them to return to an unsafe place. And finally, I would like to ask the international world to send humanitarian assistance to Myanmar. We need urgent help.
Real Stories Not Tales (RSNT) is a dedicated team in and out of Myanmar that aims to bring awareness to the reality of young people’s lives since the Myanmar military staged a coup on February 1st, 2021. Stories are collected through interviews with each protagonist by the team, either in Burmese or in English. Each character is drawn by a professional illustrator bringing a visual context to the story. The RSNT report also proposes some tips on how it is possible to support Myanmar these days. They are pleased to share selections from their first report and are now in the process of collecting more stories all around the country.