NEW YORK (NEWS10) — In the first story covering the panel discussion between five Burmese nationals resisting the Myanmar military regime, panelists discussed how the military has been entrenched in power. This is a continuation and will cover the discussion surrounding present conditions in Myanmar and aspirations for the future.
Insight Myanmar: With how the conflict has been covered in the outside world and the media, can you address the experience of being in Myanmar that may not have been understood? What would you like to share about the lived experience of this conflict?
Thiri: In the media, whenever there is a conflict, they think the people are always crying or suffering, but that is not what it looks like in daily life.
Yangon has become a bunker city. We have bunkers on every corner of the streets. The soldiers have guns pointed toward us even though we don’t have any weapons.
The green soldiers’ truck would pass around town and soldiers would stop you because maybe they don’t like how you dress, or they want to rob you, ask you questions, or check your phone. It is not political. What you do in your daily life is considered a crime by the military regime. Even being young, you are not safe because they think all young people are against the military. The problem is they see everyone as the enemy.
The whole year I was in the country after the coup, I did not fall asleep until 5 a.m. There could be a knock on the door at night, and you never know what will happen if they decide to arrest you. Young people would jump off the roof because they were afraid of being tortured or even killed. I do not remember a lot of my daily life anymore because I lived in fear.
When the coup happened, we were on the international news for two months straight. The problem with media reporting is only when there is a peak conflict or issue will they highlight it. Once that is gone the attention shifts. Just because we don’t appear in the media does not mean our suffering has ended.
We have lost all of our homes. Growing up under a military dictatorship is normal for us. Many of my friends are activists, so it was nothing new if they were arrested. What is not normal for us is this conflict. It is very heartbreaking to see our friends holding guns and fighting in the jungle. People in exile want to go home. People in the jungle want to go home. We are human and deserve to live, be happy, and go home.
Pyae Phyo Kyaw: When I was working in the Karenni State, I learned that Karenni people hate Myanmar so much. Most of what they see from Myanmar are military soldiers so they think Myanmar is someone who comes to colonize their lands and use power to rule them.
When I was in the camp, they did not notice that I am half-Myanmar, so they told me ‘don’t worry sir, if Myanmar comes, we will fight them to death and keep you safe’. I told them I am part Myanmar and my boyfriend who came together into the jungle is purely Burmese and that they have to know that not all Myanmar is bad. Even Myanmar people in the cities are under military rule and they are being killed. My friends who are medical professionals are in jail or even being shot to death during protests so I told them, it is not Myanmar, it is the military who are the enemy.
Insight Myanmar: Can you speak to what kind of support would be appreciated? How can the international community be of help to this movement?
Thiri: Talk to your family members, friends, and neighbors about what is happening in Myanmar. If you have Burmese friends, you can either support them financially or at least call them and check in to see if they are ok.
You can push your government to have laws and accountability for the assistance of Myanmar. In the U.S. push for the Burma Act in the Senate. Talk to your representatives.
For immediate attention, there is a death penalty for the seven students in Myanmar. Many of them are underage, and they may be killed. Voice out for that. Lastly, stand up for any injustice around you and love. Take care of yourself, love, and take care of the people around you.
Wild: What is the outcome that you dream of? What is the vision you have for Myanmar in 10 years?
Thiri: There are three things that I want to see for Myanmar. We are definitely going back to the past because a lot of marginalized people were left out. The first thing I want is safety and security in daily life. We do not want to live in fear. Second is that everyone has rights and freedom. The third is having opportunities for everyone regardless of who or where they are.
Bart: How I see Burma’s future is that it is a blank canvas. Anyone can be anything and do whatever they want to do. They can contribute to the country and see the outcome. We are going to start over and clean the slate. I want it to be a blank canvas where everyone can bring something to the table and we will all figure out how to make it all fit within that canvas.
Pyae Phyo Kyaw: My vision for the future is we are reconstructing our home. I believe in our people. We will not stay in this pile of debris forever. I believe that we will be able to build a safe place for everyone. That means us and all ethnic minority groups. We have learned our lesson about letting evil grow. I believe that we will fight to the end and somehow, we will win.
My message to people around the world is when it comes to donations and support, some might hesitate when they hear the term ‘armed revolution’. They don’t want to get involved in armed conflicts and are afraid they might be associated with terrorism. You have to know that the PDF was formed to protect our homes. If someone knocks on your door, robs your things, and kills your family members, and you have the chance to fight back, you will fight back.
Don’t see this as a conflict between two armed forces. One group is a terrorist trying to enslave the country, and the other is just trying to defend themselves and their families. Do not hesitate, and please learn the truth and continue supporting us.
Ma Thida: I want our country to be full of mutual respect. I want every person to practice the art of appreciation toward others and to have a collective dream. This is what we truly miss. Big collective dreams can change our society for a better, peaceful, and promising future.
Linn Thant: We are building a new democratic federal state and have a 12-step road map. To end military rule, we need to have very strong support from the international community, especially with sanctions. We need to cut off the military income. There is a need to broaden sanctions on enterprises that have fallen under the control of the military since the attempted coup. The National Unity Government also wants more sanctions on oil and gas as those companies provide a large and steady stream of revenue.
If we cannot sanction, the military can commit the next genocide. According to our research, during these past two years, the military has committed over 2,500 cases of human rights abuse, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Since the first coup in March 1962, the military has enjoyed immunity and impunity. Military leaders who committed crimes against all ethnic groups have not been held accountable. Not only to the Rohingya but to the Kachin, Shans, Rakhine, Kayanna, and Mon. They killed many of the ethnic people, our brothers, and sisters.
The NUG is proposing a new federal democratic union where all citizens can live in peace and have made it clear that all ethnic minorities shall have full rights. The NUG issues a policy statement on the Rohingya that emphasizes their belonging and inclusion. We also recognize the rights of the victims to seek justice against those who have attacked or killed them. The NUG is committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice, not only for the realization of justice but also for the deterrence of future atrocities.
The regime rules by the gun but do not have effective control over the country. They have consistently betrayed Myanmar’s international obligations. As the only legitimate government of Myanmar and the true voice of the people, the NUG proposed it must represent Myanmar before the International Court of Justice.
The Myanmar military as an institution needs to transition to be fully under a civilian government. Essentially, the 2008 Myanmar constitution is the primary flaw, which is a rubber stamp for military rule in Myanmar for decades. This is why the people voted for the National League of Democracy in the 2020 election, as they promised constitutional reform. That is why the NUG and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Myanmar parliament) suspended the 2008 constitution and are proposing a roadmap to a constituent assembly and a new federal democracy constitution.