I am the officer-in-charge of foreign relations at Democracy Movement Strike Committee of Dawei district. Before the coup attempt, I studied Commerce at Yangon University of Economics. Right now, I am a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) student who decided not to go back to university just like many other CDM students in Myanmar who resist the military dictatorship.
I’m just a normal 22-year-old guy from a village near Dawei, a city in southern Myanmar. Like most people in Myanmar, I come from a poor background. My mother passed away when I was 11. My eldest brother is deaf due to a childhood illness. I had to work since I was young: on the farm, in a factory in Thailand, as a Foodpanda delivery rider in Yangon. In the 1970s, my grandfather died fighting against communist insurgency while serving in a regime-backed militia (Pyithu Sit). In 1988, there were protests in Dawei, but they didn’t last long. Things started to change even before I went to university, however, as more people began to access the internet. When we heard what the military was doing to the Rohingya people, a lot of us young people knew it was wrong, but we didn’t do anything about it. At university I wanted to join the student union, which stood against the genocide of Rohingya. But I thought I didn’t know enough about politics to join. I wanted to learn about Myanmar politics from reading books, and this was still a goal of mine when COVID pandemic and then the coup attempt happened.
On February 1, 2021, we felt that our dreams, our futures, and the entire world were being ripped away from us and that we would be forced back into the darkness. We still didn’t know what to do. Just one day after the coup attempt, I and some friends met and sang democratic songs together with my guitar to ignite our own small community of the Myanmar Spring Revolution. Then after a few days, people began to take to the streets. By the end of the month, the streets of Dawei were packed every day with people from the city and surrounding villages. In that moment, we vowed that this time we would tear out the dictatorship from its roots, and not stop fighting until we had a genuine democracy, free of chauvinism and legalized privileges and injustice.
Then the soldiers open-fired into our crowds with real bullets.
That day was a turning point in all our lives. There have been many more difficult days since then. Some days I feel like I am living in hell, and that I can’t bear to live on this planet anymore, especially when I remember the dead bodies from that day and all the days since. But we never forget our vow to fight until we have a real democracy. Even on the worst days we never give up on the bright future of our country, of which only a few fascists are standing in the way.
After the military began its brutal crackdown, many people began to take up arms. But I believed that there was still a role for non-violent civil resistance. I joined with like-minded people from various villages and comrades from Democracy Movement Strike Committee (Dawei District) to keep organizing protests. I also started a bulletin The Revolution after the military junta shut down the internet in rural areas. I would travel around to distribute it to different villages to keep them informed about what was happening.
To be able to continue peaceful protests, we have been and continue to be in constant danger. But we stage protests as frequently as we can. In one protest I was almost arrested when the junta soldiers ambushed us as we were gathering to stage a protest. One girl froze and I had to go back to get her. Soldiers were only a few meters away and shouted at us to stop. I took her hand and ran away as they shouted at us.
The last time we attempted a flash mob protest in the city of Dawei, the police also opened fire on us, and we all ran in terror as bullets were flying around us. It was lucky that none of us or any civilians were hit. We’re still constantly on the move, often struggling to find people who will take us in or a hut we can stay in for a few nights before we have to move on again. A number of our comrades have been arrested; another narrowly escaped by running out the back as the house in which they were staying was raided. A few times last year soldiers raided my village. I had time to escape, but it took a long time to recover my nerves after days like that. Since then, we haven’t been able to go home. The military junta still harasses our families, trying to find us. My aunt was arrested. Committee leaders’ family members have been assassinated by fascist junta soldiers, and their homes have been ransacked and set on fire.
On June 26, in the middle of the night, junta soldiers came to the house of an elderly couple who had previously let some revolutionaries stay. They tied up the old man and woman and executed them. As committee members, we had to go there and move their dead bodies; we had to try to console weeping adults, their relatives, and neighbors. I can’t describe the pain I felt seeing those people. I can’t get away from it. At night I hear my comrades crying in the dark. But we know that others have it even more difficult. Tens of thousands of young people have left behind everything to go into the jungle to fight. In other parts of the country, in the heartland of Upper Burma, the whole population is in a state of rebellion, and the illegal military junta is burning down villages every day, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
The Rohingya and many other ethnic minorities have faced these horrors and worse for decades. We blame ourselves for letting things get to this point. Many people in Myanmar believe, like myself, that this coup attempt and the fascist crackdown that the entire country is now facing is the consequence of our failure to support the struggles of oppressed minorities, who have been fighting for their rights in Myanmar ever since independence in 1948. But we also believe that what is happening in Myanmar this time is part of a global phenomenon, as the conflict between democracy and fascism breaks out in one country after another. We want people to understand that though the military junta has had a monopoly on raw power for generations, it is a fundamentally weak regime: a narrow military caste without any popular support anywhere.
We can defeat it, if we just get international support.
We want the world to understand that we will never be at peace with the dictatorship; whether we get international support or not, we will never stop fighting until we win or they kill us all. We really worry about the lack of international support, because it repeats our own failure to support the struggles of the oppressed in the past which has led to the current ordeal. We need the world’s help.
I have a question for the world: if Myanmar doesn’t get help when we can easily win, what will happen when the fascists try to take over the next country?
– Raymond, Democracy Movement Strike Committee of Dawei district