In the nearly three years that have passed since Myanmar’s coup d’état, the global media has shifted its attention to other crises, from the sudden withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. But despite a lull in headlines, the turmoil that resulted from the coup remains life-altering for the generation of young activists who have been displaced by the shattering of democratic ideals.
Myanmar’s military — the Tatmadaw — staged a coup d’état on February 1, 2021, detaining top government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. The military claimed that the election results were fraudulent, but independent observers have dismissed these claims. The coup has sparked widespread protests and civil disobedience, with many people calling for the release of the detained leaders and the restoration of democracy. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization dedicated to justice in Myanmar, more than 4,000 people have so far been killed by Myanmar’s military junta since the coup, and upwards of 24,000 have been arrested, charged or sentenced.
For JURIST, coverage of the Myanmar coup is personal. Despite the risks, Myanmar law student correspondents – most of them women – covered the coup for JURIST from its beginning and have kept reporting in its aftermath. In a bid to keep the crisis in the public dialogue, we have conducted a series of interviews with some of the law students and young lawyers whose lives have been affected by Myanmar’s tumult, ranging from law students who fled abroad to save their futures and continue their studies to those who put down their textbooks and went into the jungle to take up arms against the junta as part of the pro-democracy resistance. Their accounts reflect the full range of emotional responses, from despair to anger to hope.
The interviews, which will be published in a series of articles, explore the challenges and opportunities facing young people in Myanmar as they navigate a country in political turmoil. This is the second interview in a seven-part series, with links to all that have been published so far below. Please note that our interviewees’ names have been kept private to protect their security unless otherwise noted.
Interview 1: ‘Surviving is sometimes the only way to live in Myanmar’
Interview 2: ‘I truly believe our lives will be brighter after the revolution’
Interview 3: ‘The coup has made me both tougher and more compassionate’
Interview 4: ‘The fact is, I cannot bear to live under oppression’
Interview 5: ‘We will win. We will restore democracy’
Please note that our interviewees’ names have been kept private to protect their security unless otherwise noted.
Would you briefly introduce yourself? What was your life like before the coup?
I’m a fourth-year law student at Mandalay University, Myanmar. Before the coup, I was on a straight path to fulfilling my dream of becoming a business lawyer, but since the coup my progress has been halted.
What are you doing now, two and a half years after the coup?
For now, I’ve shifted my focus to studying Business Management online, doing a course with a UK university. I’ve accepted that I won’t be able to return to the University of Mandalay until the coup is over, but after the revolution, I plan to return to my law studies.
As a law student, do you think the international community is showing enough support for the people of Myanmar? What more could they do to help?
No, I don’t think that the International Community, let alone individual foreign states, are supporting us, the people of Myanmar. They are choosing to ignore the facts on the ground in Myanmar, and have done little to try to pressure the Tatmadaw. That’s why they’ve managed to stay in power since 2021.
What are your thoughts on the Civil Disobedience Movement as a law student when the military junta is pressuring all university students to go back to classes?
As a law student, I am proud to say that I am a committed member of the Civil Disobedience Movement. We, as law students, should not support anything that is at odds with justice. We need to advocate for justice by resisting the normalization of the junta rule. We need to resist; the CDM brings people of all backgrounds together to advance this cause.
What do you think about the leadership of the National Unity Government as a parallel government of Myanmar?
In my opinion, they are doing everything they can do to win out against the junta. The thing is, they do not have enough support from the international community or enough resources to meaningfully counteract the Tatmadaw.
What inspires you to keep persevering despite the countless difficulties you’ve endured since the coup began?
We just have to keep going; we have to face these difficulties head on. We can’t let them break us. That’s life. I truly believe our lives will be brighter after the revolution.
Do you have any parting words for law students and lawyers across the international community?
Please listen to our hearts, and bolster your support for the people of Myanmar. We are all justice-minded. We are all devoted to the law. We can support each other, and have each other’s backs as we stand up to such unlawful situations as that of Myanmar.