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.
Don’t say it. Don’t do it. Don’t show it. Don’t post it. Don’t speak about it. Don’t show any expressions. Don’t take a picture. Don’t go there. Don’t share it. Don’t comment. Don’t look at it. Don’t listen to it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t think. Don’t feel.
This is how Myanmar people have to talk about “politics” these days. In short, all these restrictions are telling us, “Don’t exist, at all.”
A recent update is that we are not allowed to have and express any opinion about politics in our daily life anymore. People can get detained and charged with high treason for merely expressing their thought about the military juntas in a random conversation. The military junta invests extra effort to hide among civilians by dressing up like a civilian and oppressing us more effectively. Even if they cannot be everywhere every time, they would use this as a tactic to spread fear to make us feel haunted that we’re surrounded by enemies all the time and we are helpless. Before they physically drag our bodies into prison, they try to imprison our thinking abilities first. The junta now seems to realize that civilians who can think are more dangerous than civilians who can shoot.
Also, we no longer have freedom of expression on social media platforms. People get arrested for using their Facebook accounts to express any direct or indirect opinion about politics. People get arrested for using a black screen as their Facebook profile picture. Using a black screen as our Facebook profile picture is just one tiny effort we make to express our sorrow for the fallen heroes of this revolution and for the mourning civilians who get their houses and villages burnt by the military juntas. Despite the fear, people show this slight signal to each other as a comforting action. The junta won’t even excuse this. They label such an act of humanity “a grave crime”. Not only that, we can also get arrested for sharing news about the PDF [the People’s Defense Force], NUG [the National Unity Government] and sanctions against the juntas. Just sharing news with our own Facebook account is deemed a crime in Myanmar. Our voices are getting killed. This equates to killing our existence too.
When we had the chance to actually gather on the streets and shout out our opinions, we at least had a chance to squeeze out our courage with the support of people in the crowd. Right now, individuals are cornered and forced to be isolated, and the actual courage and willingness to stay active lies upon individuals’ shoulders. The military juntas are purposefully making people become too fearful to observe, to look, to listen, to talk, to feel, to think and ultimately, they want us to be scared to even ‘exist’. Therefore, as we usually say, they can kill people but they cannot kill the revolution. The revolution will live on in our hearts and will be carried along in each generation.