Photo courtesy of Wai Wai
An online interview with Wai Wai, a young female protester in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 12.
How was your day today?
I started the day by calling my colleagues and friends to see where and when we are going to gather. We need to check every morning if there are any unknown people in the vicinity. I check social media for latest news. Then I went out and took part in my township protest. I do not use my car anymore. During election time I pasted Aung San Suu Kyi’s campaign photo. Now it is hidden. I go around on my bicycle. I am from Yangon. I have been on the street almost every day since the military took over the government. In every township, protests take place. Even today people came down bringing snacks and drinks for us. They show solidarity every day. Today there were no attacks by the military in our township. In other parts of the country, the military attacked civilians. Although the military attacks them, the younger generation is not backing down. They keep coming out on the streets to protest. In different townships, different numbers of young people come out depending on the population. Even older people come out to protest. Everybody, or at least the vast majority, want democracy.
Is the attitude of the military changing towards the protestors?
Their attitude is getting from bad to worse and they are very rough. We don’t have guns; we sit down or we stand and say that we want democracy. We want them to release our leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, the president and the civilians they arrested. They shoot, even with live bullets. More than 60 young people are dead. From March 3, things have become worse.
How long you will be protesting? What do young people think?
Young people think that we need to become stronger and stronger because their friends are being killed by the military. You cannot let it go. Most people, including the younger generation, are unhappy and upset. They don’t want to see more people being killed, so they have to keep coming out showing their desire for democracy.
How do you coordinate protests? How do you know what is happening in other townships?
The campaign is called CDM – Civil Disobedient Movement. The whole country is protesting in coordination. We communicate through social media; most people use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and they are moving to Telegram and Signal. We depend on the social media, which plays an important role in bringing up the issues and showing the true situation. We also call and text each other. All TV and print media is either controlled by the military or closed down. Yesterday military ordered a number of media institutions to shut. People do not watch TV anymore because they talk nonsense. The military cuts the internet from 1 am to 9 am. That’s the time the military, armed with machine guns, comes to arrest young people so we have to be vigilant in the night. We stay together. Last night I didn’t go home. If they can’t find the person they want to arrest, they take other people in the house. They even take away dead bodies. I really, really can’t accept this but we can’t do anything because they have guns.
Are Buddhist monks participating in the CDM?
Some monks have participated. What is happening in Myanmar has nothing to do with the religion; it is about getting back our democracy. People know that this is about democracy, not about religion. We say this loud and clear.
What does your family think?
My family, especially my mum, is very supportive. My mum helps whoever needs it. Right now we have to take care of ourselves. We also have to take care of our road and our township. At night we have a schedule to protect the road from midnight to morning. If the military comes, we bang pots and pans. This happens in every township.
You have been protesting for more than a month now. How does the campaign sustain itself?
Yes, it has been a long month. We thought that because the military keeps killing people, there will be an international outcry and pressure. There have been strong statements supporting our democracy. But whether they can help us or not we have to support each other within the country; we will not give up. The military treats us like terrorists. What kind of terrorists are we? We are unarmed peaceful people. We have to fight for ourselves until we get our democratic rights. Yes, we can do it. We want our elected government to manage the country.
Is the country in a kind of lockdown?
Government offices are paralysed. Banks are not working. Most of the government workers are participating in the CDM. The military comes to arrest those who are participating in the CDM so government workers are running away from their homes. We don’t even know how many have been arrested and how the military treats them.
Are you afraid of being killed?
Definitely yes. We all are scared. We know that if they come for us and we evade arrest our family members may be arrested. Although we are scared we still have to go out and fight for democracy. We have hope that we will get what we want if we keep fighting like this. If we stop fighting we will never get there. We encourage and motivate each other. There is no rule of law or any human rights in Myanmar today so how can we not be afraid of our lives?
Any last words?
I would like express my respect for all those people who are still participating in the protest. I salute the government workers who are participating in the CDM. We don’t attack the military because ours is a peaceful protest. We are peaceful people who want democracy. Let the whole world know that. We really, really need international help. The United Nations needs to help us. Democratic countries need to support us. International human rights organisations need to show solidarity. We need motivation as well as financial help. Right now we are we are not in good shape but we will continue to come out on to the streets because we want democracy.