Len (pseudonym) expresses how her struggles, traumatic experiences, and life have changed for the worse in the aftermath of the coup.
I was a university student. As a student, I enjoyed my days to the fullest. I studied diligently, I learned from my external surroundings, and I aimed to make my way meaningfully into social world after my graduation. I had dreams. I have five siblings in my family and I am the eldest. Our family’s core livelihood was in our orchard.
I had a dream to contribute to my family’s income which was struggling financially. I had goals and hopes after I graduated—I dreamt of working at an organization that could make a positive impact on our society. I wished to make positive contributions both to my community and to my family.
It was one of my ambitions to support my family in any way I could. Although I remain dedicated to this goal, I faced an unexpected shock in my life with the coup. That was an unexpected and unbelievable turning point for me. This was not only experienced by me but also witnessed by more than fifty million citizens of Myanmar that morning of 21 February, 2021.
Myanmar youth had many divergent dreams and were committed to their life journeys before February 1st,2021. They persevered and worked relentlessly to pursue their dreams even though they faced many ups and downs in their lives. They all had different dreams and hopes. However, all of these dreams were shattered into pieces with the horrifying news on the morning of the coup. If I remember that day correctly, it was a cool and pleasant day in my town.
As usual, I ate breakfast which my mother had prepared for me, then, I put on some makeup and set off for work. While the universities were under lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, I worked at a local NGO in my town. The first news I received upon arriving at the office was the complete shutdown of mobile and internet networks. I did not realize it earlier as I had been occupied with preparing for work. I was somehow surprised and shocked that the whole city experienced a total shutdown of mobile networks. Soon after, I learnt of terrifying news that the military had staged a coup and controlled the nation, according to them temporarily.
In reality, it was an illegal coup. They deceived us with some vague terms—annihilating the nation’s future for the personal interests of top military leaders. All my hopes and dreams have been taken away from me since the coup. While our schools and universities were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our priority after Covid restrictions were gradually lifted were to return to our schools and universities. All students dreamt of going back to school. However, even before we could embark on our pursuit, our aspirations and goals drifted away as a result of the military coup.
Chin State is a less developed state in Myanmar with worse infrastructure and economic conditions, which are far more unpleasant compared to other states and regions. In such a region, it demands tough struggles and backbreaking work from parents who send their children to university and help them graduate. Parents invest their lifetime savings to educate their children. To see their children graduate would give parents immense joy beyond words. Therefore, when their children decided to participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) to defy the coup, tensions often mounted between parents and children. These parents have placed high hopes on their children. But we must chart our own history.
I was one of the students who wanted to continue to pursue an education. However, as it was impossible to go back to school under the illegitimate military dictatorship, I became a CDM participant. I took part in protests with other like-minded friends and got involved in this Spring Revolution. My involvement in protests paved a way for me to attend military training in a liberated area of the country. Thereafter, I left my town to attend the military trainings with my friends. Although I was a frequent traveller before, this time round was different. Even though I was excited, I had mixed emotions, such as frustrations and worries, especially when I saw soldiers and their military checkpoints along the road. All of my circumstances were abruptly uprooted under the dictatorship. It was even more impossible to move forward to the future without any freedom. We discussed our current conditions, made some predictions about our future, and finally arrived at our destination after two days of travel.
Everything was new to us as we did not have prior exposure to revolution and politics. However, we all became friends with the newcomers within a few days. It was not easy on any terms when attending the military training. However, there was no turning back as we had already experienced unexpected shock. We were all united and completed the training. In addition to military training, we also learnt about ethnic rights and our revolutionaries and leaders’ commitment to struggle.
Although this is a terrifying nightmare for the nation, I believe it is an opportunity to fight for a truly federal democracy—a long-time hope of our ethnic people over many years. Though I could have returned home after the military training, I chose to remain in the new place. This decision created a new separation with my family and I feel like I failed my parent’s expectations of me—but I believe this was the right decision for me. I felt remorseful for failing my parent’s expectations of me. Yet, this was nothing significant compared to the pain experienced by our comrades who had to leave their homes forever. Living conditions were not too comfortable. Though we all came to gather in this place to fight against tyranny, we could not hold our tears when faced with the news of heart-breaking events and challenges. We were left with guilt, regrets, and trauma when our beloved friends whom we talked to everyday sacrificed their lives in this revolution and we could do nothing about it. I will never forget such a traumatic time in my life.
My greatest fear while living in this liberated area was collecting the names of those who were going to the frontlines. I did not want to see anyone who could not make their way back. I did not want to know of the conditions that prevented those who ventured out to return to their barracks. Those who gave up their lives had families, they missed their homes, they dreamt of going back to their beloved family members and friends. However, in this revolution, they gave up their lives even before they had an opportunity to see their loved ones.
My heart breaks into pieces whenever I think about this. I feel heartbroken for their loved ones. Those who strived in this revolution have dreamed of returning to their loved ones; they left this world to somewhere more peaceful before attaining the peace they worked for. They fulfilled their responsibility to this nation. Those of us who remain must continue to fulfill our duties. We must continue to struggle. Although we are mindful since the beginning of our involvement in this Spring Revolution that this will be a significant life-threatening struggle, the pain was excruciating and the reality was hard to accept. I do not want to know how many more lives are to be sacrificed. Everyone misses their safe havens and joyful moments. Our desire for a home is uncontrollable, particularly when we encounter sorrowful moments. Though we are to take care of our parents at this age, when we turn our back on them, we feel stress regarding our family.
Nonetheless, we aim to finish our fight and eliminate the military regime that fuels prolonged civil war and conflict, shattering human rights and the basic dignity of people. In this fight against dictators, we must also prevent the possibility of new, future dictators. Regardless of the system, whether it’s an autocracy or a constitutional monarchy, all that is brought by a king and a dictator is still repression and unfreedom. No dictators have ever brought positive benefits to people, and they never will.
Although armed struggle is not a reasonable approach in eliminating tyranny once and for all, armed struggle is still the best option to revolutionize against these violent dictators. This notion is strengthened by the existing situation in Myanmar. While some ethnic armed organizations want to circumvent civil war and embrace a peaceful negotiation, they have not gained genuine freedom. Equality and true freedom only exist on paper, and these principles cannot be implemented in reality. Our dream of fighting in this revolution against the military dictatorship is to gain genuine peace, authentic freedom, and all the basic human rights entitled to our people. We hope for a nation where all citizens and ethnic people of Myanmar do not endure oppression. They have lived under oppressive conditions for many years, a result of all the agreements and negotiations on paper that have not been successfully executed in reality.
Our ultimate aspiration is to achieve genuine and sustainable peace. We do not wish anyone to be subjugated and distressed as a result of civil war. We want to eradicate the days that force to people lose their happiness, that force people apart in life and death due to war. After these days are over, children will come out to play happily in open fields, parents and grandparents can live peacefully at home, and the youth will pursue their future ambitions with freedom. All of us endeavour to contribute our own part to building up our family and our nation.
With that strong conviction in mind, we must continue our struggle against the dictatorshipS
Len (pseudonym) is a student, and she is currently working as a researcher at the Institute of Chin Affairs (ICA).