Voices of Myanmar: Choosing to protest no matter the risks Features
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Voices of Myanmar: Choosing to protest no matter the risks

In the weeks that have passed since Myanmar’s February 1 coup d’état, as dissenters have been jailed, disappeared and killed, a group of JURIST law student correspondents* has participated in street protests by day and navigated government-ordered internet blackouts by night to report on the crisis.

Below, we share some of their insights on what motivates them to expose themselves to grave risks in their fight for democracy. Many of our respondents submitted calls to action, which are italicized below. What follows are perspectives gathered in recent weeks from JURIST’s correspondents and other student respondents from law schools across Myanmar. All of these responses are being published anonymously due to the risks faced by these students.  While we have made minor revisions for clarity, we have endeavored to publish these students’ words in their own voices, with minimal editorial interference.

This is part four of a series of articles in which we explore the Myanmar crisis from the perspectives of our correspondents on the front lines. All five parts can be accessed via the following links:

I feel compelled to let the world know what’s happening in Myanmar. I don’t want us to lose any more lives. We desperately want democracy. We want to sleep soundly at night, knowing we’ll wake up safe in the morning. We just want everything to calm down so we can start building our dreams again.

I’m willing to take risks to share our story because the larger the international audience, the higher the likelihood that international authorities and members of the global community will take action. My motivation is democracy. We refuse to let history repeat itself.

We need to win this revolution. If we fail, our lives and future may never be beautiful. Too many people have already sacrificed their lives to this revolution. And so many more have been injured. I would like to ask the international community: how many dead bodies are needed for the United Nations to take action?

Dear international readers, please help us to urge such international bodies as the United Nations to take actions as soon as possible. We need your encouragement. Please let our voices be heard around the world.

Since the first of February, Myanmar has gone dark. The Myanmar military and police have routinely used force against peaceful protesters. Every day, we hear new reports about how many protesters have been killed, tortured, and unlawfully arrested by government forces. It is heartbreaking to hear these kinds of reports in this day and age, when there should be no place for a military coup.

Between 1962 and 2010, Myanmar was under a military regime, which closed the country off from the rest of the world. At that point, we had no way of even knowing the meaning of the term “human rights,” and thus we had no idea our rights were being violated. Myanmar transitioned towards democracy between 2010 and 2015, during which period we began to understand what our rights were.

Now, the military of Myanmar is once again dragging us back into a military dictatorship. It has been several weeks since the coup took place, and our human rights and fundamental freedoms are once again being violated. We no longer feel safe.

But despite our resistance against the military coup, at the moment it feels like we – the people of Myanmar – can only rely on ourselves.

We cannot solve the crisis alone. We respectfully request from the international community any possible help, and immediate collective action, as we are losing precious lives by the day.

On a daily basis in our country, military forces are attacking defenseless citizens, including children, pregnant women, doctors, teachers and students like us. Far too many activists have given up their lives in the name of democracy. We don’t want to live under military rule, in a country where our rights are limited and our lives are under constant threat. We can’t suffer this feeling anymore and we want the world to know that we are resisting the coup and fighting back.

The reason I am willing to face these risks in order to share our story is because I would like to ask the world to stand with the people of Myanmar, showing solidarity with us through peaceful protests and civil disobedience. To the rest of the world: please help us and listen to our voices as we fight for our rights, fight for democracy and fight for our future generations.

I am willing to expose myself to risks because during this crisis, it is imperative that our voices are heard by the international community. The louder our voices, the more clearly the international community will understand the truth. In Myanmar, the military has busied itself with generating endless streams of fake news. It’s our responsibility to speak the truth. That is what motivates me to share the truth.

I used to believe in law before this crisis happened. But one thing that I have come to realize is that law alone isn’t enough, and in fact, it can be useless with respect to protecting people, especially when the law is in the hands of a dictatorship.

Another thing I have learned is that we as a global community should unite and fight side-by-side everywhere we find injustices, and every time we witness inhumane acts. I believe that sort of spontaneous solidarity would be unbreakable.

My motivation for sharing our story is my desire for the world to learn firsthand how the military rebellion has oppressed our people, violated our humans rights, and resulted in deadly crackdowns against peaceful protesters. It is my belief that direct voices of civilians can have a bigger emotional impact on readers than standard news reporting.

Please support our civilians with the tools available under international law.  This is particularly important because our country doesn’t have a great many international law experts .

The Myanmar military coup has brought about serious crimes and human rights violations. The reason I’m putting myself at risk to report on these issues is because I want the international community to understand the truth of what is happening in our country.  I want them to know that in the modern world, a coup should not be taking place. We must protect our human rights and other basic rights. I stand on the side of the truth; this is what motivates me to share my story.

I hope the international community will understand our struggle and stand with us.  I also want the United Nations to take serious action with respect to the coup. The [government forces] are killing us. When this is all over, they must be brought to account in accordance with international law.

Every time I hear loud drum beats emanating from outside, I know someone has died on the road outside. This always makes me feel sad and helpless. But one thing we can do is stand up and show the world what is happening, and I’m proud of everyone who is facing risks to do so. Because I’m a law student, I don’t have any interest in taking illegal actions; I just want to do everything I can to ensure that justice is served.

I’m willing to face the risks because our country is no longer safe. I can’t comprehend why they are cracking down on innocent kids – robbing them of their futures. I feel it’s my duty to do what I can to share what’s happening here with an international audience.

Please save Myanmar and God bless Myanmar.

The current situation is bleak. As law students, we no longer feel that our lives are safe. That said, I’m optimistic that our people – our civilians – will win in the end.

I hope the United Nations will take decisive and concrete action, and that the international community will work together to save Myanmar now.

I just want to share what has been happening in Myanmar and let the global audience know the truth concerning the military coup. All of us – students, civil servants, citizens of all walks of life – are shining a spotlight on the situation peacefully, hoping that international audiences will understand the sacrifices we’re making, and help us as we endeavor to get our country on track.

Too many unarmed people have been killed and injured. The citizens of Myanmar are facing countless human rights violations.

That said, fear will not deter us from seeking justice; we will continue to protest peacefully. I believe that justice will always triumph over injustice. I want to shine a light on the situation in order to seek international support.

I implore international readers not to rely on news reports issued by Myanmar’s government-controlled media outlets. I also urge international supporters to bolster our fights for democracy and justice, to release our legitimate government leaders and all of the other innocent political prisoners. I also want international audiences to consider how many people need to die before justice comes to Myanmar. 

We are willing to take these risks because we want people around the world to truly understand what’s happening in our country.

We hope to get help from the United Nations. We hope our country will become a member of the Rome Statute, and we want the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to ensure that justice is served.

We have been doing everything we can to solve this crisis – by taking to the streets in peaceful protest, and by joining the civil disobedience movement.

We have watched as the international community has condemned the military coup by issuing statements, imposing economic sanctions and demanding an end of the use of violence against peaceful protesters and the release of unlawful detainees. But we also watch as government forces continue to kill peaceful protestors and arrest innocent people. The death rates are growing by the day. I hope the United Nations will exercise its responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar.

I hope that those who are accountable for these crimes will be put on trial soon. I believe that if we fight together every time we see injustice, the world will be filled with good, and will prosper.

I want our voices to be heard. We should never be silent about issues that are wrong. I want the world to know how deeply we want democracy. We – the activists – are unarmed and we are many. With intelligence, humanity and unity, we will win this battle. We’re determined to do our part to erase all dictatorships on earth. Announcing a coup and manipulating the election results should not be treated as a casual matter. This is a breach that must result in serious action.

They are trying to assign blame to peaceful protestors, despite the use by government forces of gunshots, teargas, and flash bangs. The protesters on the front lines have had to fight teargas with water, and have had to shield themselves from gunshots with shields that aren’t even bulletproof. The brave front-line fighters use these futile self-defense efforts in order to create a distraction and let the children try to escape. It’s the government forces who have the guns; they’re the ones who drive around at night firing shots into houses, smashing car windshields, stealing food and money from civilians. They show their true colors at night, terrorizing us. I can’t wait for the sun to rise.

We want to encourage the international community to be more outspoken and to do everything they can to help us. If you can’t help defend us militarily, please do what you can to ensure that the military junta will be held to account before the international tribunals. Please keep supporting us. Please hear our voices. We want to be free from fear.

At the moment, a devotion to justice is driving people from across Myanmar to protest peacefully in the streets. But the armed forces are taking actions against us in illogical ways, such as shooting at us with real guns, firing water cannons, blocking public streets and shutting down the internet in order to prevent the spread of reports about their human rights violations via social media. We civilians have not done anything illegal to warrant these responses, and the results of the 2020 election were legitimate.

The citizens of Myanmar need help from the international community. We can’t solve this crisis alone.

I don’t mind taking to the streets each day in protest, but it’s becoming unbearable to see the pain, the blood, the death, the tears.

Sometimes I wonder what the United Nations are waiting for. Are they waiting for a certain number of dead bodies to pile up before they’ll take action? If the UN would just tell me what that number is, I would sacrifice myself if it meant they would help our country. That would be easier than continuing to watch our people suffer. To be honest, it seems like [intergovernmental organizations and foreign governments] just want to gather data and file reports about our situation; but reports can’t protect us from bullets.

*Please note:  All of these responses are being published anonymously due to the risks faced by these students.  While we have made minor revisions for clarity, we have endeavored to publish these students’ words in their own voices, with minimal editorial interference.