Myanmar 100 days: three activists


Bangkok (AFP)

They have abandoned everything and are working in the shadows to overthrow the junta.

One hundred days after the military coup that ended Myanmar’s brief alliance with democracy, three women tell AFP about their lives and their struggles, living between anger and hope.

AFP has changed its name because of the danger they run in denouncing the regime.

– The writer –

“They murdered my future,” said writer Ma Hninsi.

Since the coup, the 55-year-old has lost her literary magazine, her lifestyle and her circle of friends.

A six-year political prisoner under the former military regime in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison, Ma Hninsi’s world collapsed again with the morning coup of February 1.

“There was a lot of confusion because communications were cut. The streets were empty, only army supporters marched,” she said.

The resistance organized quickly and Ma Hninsi demonstrated every day in Yangon.

“During the first weeks, in the streets, there were a lot of people, women, children,” she said.

“People were angry, but the atmosphere was peaceful. We sang and danced.”

But then the atmosphere changed.

“One day the soldiers started shooting. We understood that they had nothing more to lose, ”she said.

More than 770 civilians have been killed in the junta’s crackdown on protests, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), a monitoring group.

The junta reports a much lower death toll and attributes the violence to “rioters” who engage in “acts of terrorism”.

On March 27, Armed Forces Day, around 100 people were killed in the crackdown on protests, according to the AAPP, the bloodiest day since the coup. Near Ma Hninsi’s house, the students were surrounded.

“I took advantage of a period of calm to hide five in my car and evacuate them. Within minutes we ran into a patrol, ”she said.

Since then, Ma Hninsi has been hiding, writing and meditating every day “to relieve stress”.

It also collects money to support workers participating in the civil disobedience movement that cripples entire sectors of the economy.

“The solidarity is huge. Everyone helps as much as possible,” she said.

“We will win. It’s not a dream – it’s a certainty.”

– Humanitarian –

Htoi Zin has spent his entire life in Kachin State, in the far north of the country, near the Chinese border.

Over the past three months, scores of anti-junta activists have sought refuge in the territory, which is partly controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed group that has fought the army for decades. years.

From this isolated region, political resistance is organized and Htoi Zin, 32, helps the new arrivals to settle.

“They often traveled for several days to avoid security checks. Many are depressed, they have lost everything, sometimes they have witnessed atrocities,” she said.

It provides them with a roof over their heads, food and Chinese SIM cards to bypass junta-imposed mobile data outages, aided by online donations from Myanmar but also from the United States, Japan and the United States. from Singapore.

“Often small amounts of a few tens of dollars, but it can go up to $ 1,000. I exchange donations online for cash at merchants, ”she explains.

Since the coup, the long-standing conflict between the military and the KIA has flared up again, and the two have combined to spike the prices of everyday goods in the region.

“Twenty kilos of rice costs $ 30 (now), down from $ 19 before the coup, and the same goes for oil or tomatoes,” Htoi Zin said.

“If this continues, we will soon be unable to afford it.”

– The rebel –

“I am too old to take up arms, but I support the insurgents 100%,” said Nan Poe, an activist.

On March 1, as soldiers stalking her interrogated her neighbors, the 53-year-old fled her home in Yangon through the back door, not even stopping to put on her shoes.

She went east to territory controlled by rebels of the Karen ethnic group, which gave refuge to many opponents of the junta.

A month later, the Karen National Union (KNU) armed group seized a military post and the army responded with air raids, the first in more than 20 years in the region.

For a week, Nan Poe hid in the jungle, helped by villagers.

She crossed the border into neighboring Thailand, but after three days was returned by the authorities and now prefers to stay in Myanmar.

“We need to stand with the young Karen people who are fighting for our people,” she said.

As clashes between the KNU and the army grow and airstrikes continue, she helps build makeshift shelters on the sides of the hills, digging holes that she covers with sandbags and wood.

“At dawn, as soon as we hear the planes, we run to put the children in the shelters,” she said.

“I tell them to be brave, that victory will be on our side.”

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