Myanmar dispatches: ‘it’s not the same anymore’ – no homecoming for law students at Yangon University
Myanmar dispatches: ‘it’s not the same anymore’ – no homecoming for law students at Yangon University

Myanmar law students are reporting for JURIST on challenges to the rule of law in their country under the military junta that deposed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. In this dispatch, a law student at Yangon University describes her return to campus for a brief visit with friends in December, the first time she had been there since the coup.  Earlier this month, the University formally reopened for senior students, but most students are boycotting classes in opposition to the junta which initially closed the University and dismissed multiple members of its law faculty for supporting the anti-junta CDM (Civil Disobedience Movement). For privacy and security reasons we are withholding this law student’s name and institutional affiliation. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.

Here is my experience of going back to Yangon University just for a visit.

Before coup, I can say I usually visit YU almost every month, even in the times of covid and no students. YU is one of the most important and beautiful places for me. I studied there for my second year and first semester of third year. But since dictatorship, we had to accept that we couldn’t continue our studies there as long as this situation continues.

Occasionally we can see our friends posting and sharing old photos from YU, talking about the memories. I really can sympathize with other YU students and my classmates from different towns. As for me, even when I drove past it when I’m going downtown, I always see it as a place where I belong, not knowing when I can be there again with my friends.

In November, one of my close friends said he’s finally in Yangon coming back from his native town and he’d love to meet us. So we planned to meet on December 1 as it’s been nearly 2 years since the four of us have met in person.

We had our lunch together and talked for the whole afternoon. We were about to go back home. But I suggested to visit YU ’cause I really miss my university and wanted to be there at least for a while. They all willingly agreed with me and then we drove to our law department around 3:15 pm. We used to finish our classes at this time and we saw some teachers around our building. And some other adults too. I can’t say if they were senior students or young teachers.

All of us had no intention of meeting anyone else or going into our department. Especially we didn’t want to be seen by any of our teachers from the law department, and so we waited for a few minutes until those people were gone. Then we walked and talked for a few minutes. The security guard from our building knows one of our friends very well and he didn’t say anything. He was also shutting the main door of the building so no one was left inside. Then after 15 minutes when we were taking some selfies, another guard from the main gate came to us on a  bicycle and told us we can’t take any photos within that compound. Then we immediately left and we became silent for a bit. My friend said he thought it’s for the safety of non-CDM teachers and students [who might be on campus].

I  told myself that the situation is different now and I shouldn’t go to the university any more as long as we don’t have anything to do there, even though it used to be our place.

On the way back to the gate, we saw one of ours teacher from first year walking with his peers. The four of us talked about old memories, the times he heard my friends’ conversation about how to copy the notes during tutorial time, the times he didn’t reply to me anymore on Messenger when I was asking too many questions as I didn’t get enough clarity. He got promoted a few months ago and we don’t see his posts anymore.

Then we went our ways.

I think this day will be one I will never forget. Anyway I was happy for a few minutes when I was there with my friends, except for the fact that someone came and reminded me that it’s not the same anymore.