The author of this article is a Long Beach State student who requested to remain anonymous out of concern for the safety of themselves and their family.
“Good morning. This might be my last day alive. Just know that I love you so much. Please never forget that.” This was one Myanmar citizen’s last text message to her parents before she was shot in the head and killed.
While other countries are getting shots of coronavirus vaccinations to tackle the global pandemic, the citizens of Myanmar are getting shot by live ammunition. I am a Long Beach State student currently living in Myanmar, and this is my message to the CSULB family about my experience.
Protests in Myanmar started as soon as the military conducted a coup. However, it formally didn’t have a name until the doctors and teachers refused to work for as long as the military held power. As a result, the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) was formed.
Almost every single day since February 28, I wake up to gunshots. As I look across the street, I see people of different religions, gender and sexuality running while the Burmese military chases them with guns and tear gas. I hear screaming.
Every day, if you are out to protest, you will be bruised from running. You will fear for your life. You will run into random houses. Strangers will hide you as the police shoot bullets towards their windows and doors, trying to arrest both the house owner and the hiding protestors.
Myanmar has become a place where a home cannot even be safe anymore. A law was passed enabling the police force to enter homes and arrest people without any warrants.
Many households brought in protestors and fed them, as well as provided them clean clothes as they hid from the military. In retaliation, the military announced with a loudspeaker that they would go into every household in that township and request housing documentation with the amount of people living in the home.
If they lie or forge documents, they will be subjected to at least seven years of prison. As a result, several protestors left the houses to surrender to the police. I do not know what has happened to the “prisoners” unlawfully detained.
Feeling distressed, I scrolled through my friends’ text messages and stories that they posted on their social media.
It was another day with accounts of rape, brutal beatings and killing of innocent citizens and bystanders. The people who were released from jail told their stories. Both females and males had been raped. They have been scarred for life.
Many of these people are teenagers, ages ranging from 13 to 25. On the TV, the only news channel available was from the military. They use the station to spread their propaganda by stating that the citizens are killing each other and our movement for democracy has incited violence and “the perpetrators will suffer the loss of life.” Sadly, this has been turned into a day of chaotic normalcy in Myanmar.
In the last few days, National League of Democracy officials were detained. However, likely due to racism, only Muslim leaders were tortured and killed. One NLD Muslim leader was arrested and then returned to the family the next day dead. In a photo I saw, he had stitches from his neck to crotch, a sight painful to see.
On March 3, I suffered a day full of heartache and panic attacks. That afternoon, my best friend frantically texted me about her situation. Her family has been hiding a group of protestors who were trying to escape from the military.
The military started shooting at the windows, and she made me promise that I would spread information on what is happening. She made me promise to say what township this has occurred.
The sad part is that she is not alone. It is happening everywhere. It is happening below my neighborhood. It is happening in other cities with many casualties. With a heavy heart, I told her to stay safe and only text me when the police had left the neighborhood. Her family was safe, but her cousin, a 14 year old, was shot in the arm and in the thigh. He is now in an operation room.
The evening was worse. The military started using machine guns in one township. Seeing videos of the citizens on the ground in a pool of blood unable to get up even to run has traumatized me. The casualty that day was over 50 deaths with hundreds more injured.
On March 6, the military burned barricades that the citizens set up to delay military responses and the military arrested over 700 people in just one day in my city, Yangon. I do not know the position of other rural areas where Internet access may be limited.
The military revoked the licenses of all journalists and journal sites that support the NLD, as well as the Civil Disobedience Movement, a strike from all civilians where they do not go to work for as long as the military or the Tatmadaw holds the power.
Several of the news media sites did not care that their licenses were revoked and as a result, all their offices were raided with equipment confiscated or destroyed. Today, the military has been seen raiding ATMs and banks.
On the week of March 7, the military changed their tactics from live ammunition to detainment and torture. All throughout the week, pictures of dead men, women and students popped up on my social media.
I saw pictures of bruises of the beatings with batons. I saw people mutilated, or mutilated and stitched back up. I saw people with skin peeled off. One political figure was returned to their family, dead. His face seemed to have been burned by chemicals, teeth extracted, and his body was stitched. And still, I saw videos of the police shooting at houses at night.
On March 10, over 700 people were detained just in Yangon. And on that night, the military-supporting news channel announced that the military has been “patient” with the civilians who they claimed had been violent, despite only bringing shields to the protest for their own protection, and that the military was making sure that “no casualties” had been made. But, they will not be patient any longer.
They said that starting on March 11, they will utilize full force on the protestors of Myanmar. Personally, I believe this was a call to war. I know for a fact that all protests were not violent. The military has been shooting the protestors. There is no way it is unfolding how the news channel suggested since, in Myanmar, no civilians have the right to hold guns.
I sincerely hope that the military ceases the use of excessive force and torture towards its citizens.
In desperation, I call onto the international population to help Myanmar citizens fight for their freedom. Having attended multiple protests, I have personally seen the generosity of civilians towards one another.
I have seen pregnant women, fearlessly marching through the streets. I have seen young teenagers, donating food and water to other protestors. I have seen street vendors living in poverty yet donating all their food towards protestors.
I am in agony, seeing that the military and the police have the audacity to kill and abuse these people.
I must keep myself anonymous for the sake of my family, but I need your help. I cannot bear to see other citizens in poverty as the coup progresses.
I still believe that Myanmar’s freedom is in our grasp. I still believe that I can make a difference, whether it be as a keyboard warrior or a person out in the streets protesting. I believe that justice will prevail. I believe my generation will be the last generation to experience this tragedy.
I may get arrested for speaking out like this if the military knocks on my door at night and takes me away, but I will not be silenced. Our country needs the global population to walk with Myanmar in this movement towards democracy.
If it’s possible, please keep up to date with the crisis. Please speak out. Please donate to organizations like Mutual Aid Myanmar or Start Some Good. Please do what is in your power to help Myanmar be a free country again.