In Solidarity with Myanmar
“We Make Art in Peace” (2021) by Myat Thwe Nyein x Chit Wai x May Moe Thu x Bay Bay x WaiHmu Aung x Mayre x Nyan Lin Htet x TA x Htin Kyaw x Htet Naing x Ei Thinzar Naing x Min Khant Kyaw x DeGG x Shay G x Lune Ye x Mar Na x Aung Myint Myat x Billy x RUSH x Kiko x Thaw Zin x Zaw Pyae Phyo x Oo Thaw x Mess x TE x CanDy x Zune x Nay Kha x Min Pk x PESOK x Pinky Htut Aung x VitaDrawing x Aung Khant Min x Honey Htut Aung x Winewyne x Mayco Naing x Aung See Phyo x Moe Thandar Aung x The Kool Kid x Ant Maw Oo-James x Saw Yu Nandar x Rost x COMG x Pete Cruze x Bart x Thu Myat x Nwe x Theè Oo x Kyaw Htoo Bala
On 1 February 2021 in Myanmar, the military staged a coup, seizing control from the democratically-elected National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which in November had won the general elections by a landslide. Several NLD leaders have been detained in a series of raids, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and this state of events has driven hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to form a civil disobedience movement, defying the military government ban on rallies.
Ethos Books stands in solidarity with the people of Myanmar, and would like to amplify their calls for the military to relinquish their unlawful takeover, to restore the elected government and release the detainees, and to refrain from using violence on the peaceful protestors. This week, we share a powerful open letter from a young citizen of Myanmar, originally published on We, the Citizens:
I was born in 1994, under the shadow of the previous military regime. It was a time when a picture of General Than Shwe would hang in the offices of every business, ministry, school, and hospital, much like an unholy saint. My father, who was born in 1961 also grew up under this same shadow, his saint was General Nay Win. For those of us who have grown up living under the watchful eyes of the Tatmadaw (Army), we know life is unfair, we know it is unpredictable, we know what is taken from us was never ours to begin with and understood to leave some things as unfortunate events and not pick at the issue—just or unjust. These ideals have been passed on from generation to generation as simply the way life was.
My father and I have been lucky to vote a total of two times in our lives, my grandmother who is currently 98 has been fortunate to vote twice, like us. With the two votes we casted in 2015 and 2020, we did not forget those who have died for the cause of democracy, those who have sacrificed everything, including their families. I remember the day that they took down General Than Shwe’s photo from my father’s office. First no one had the nerve to do it, it seemed ungodly, cursed to even think of even removing it. But day by day surely that fear faded, and the glare behind his gold frame glasses did not burn so deeply. The photo was removed, but kept in the backroom, just in case.
Before 2015 we had survived, but not yet lived. In the early years of the democratic transition, there were shadows of doubt, but what lingered more heavily was the fear we had grown accustomed to living with. The fear to speak, the fear to act, the fear to want more than we were allowed. But the more freedoms we were allowed, the more we believed, the more we dare to hope that all people would have an equality in society, access to better healthcare, opportunities to make a living, and the dignity to live the life we chose.
Our democracy is not perfect, it is fragile as any democracy is — there have been injustices, untruths, and unfulfilled promises, for which there are no excuses to be made. But I write to you as someone who comes from a people who have been broken down generation to generation — who has learned to live in fear for nearly four generations. A democracy, mighty or meager, is an opportunity to live a free from oppression, not for some, but for all.
I will not call on you to condemn the injustices unleashed on us on the 1st of February. I will not request for you to post on social media on behalf of Myanmar citizens. However, I will ask you to defend the democracy of your country and every country around the world, for tyranny needs no companions. Our friends in Thailand, Hong Kong, India, and Taiwan are all fighting for an opportunity to live a life of dignity. There is no higher honor than fighting for your rights and the rights of others. When you hear our stories, take heed, and remember the fragility of life under a fair and democratic system. We too wake up in the morning. We too work to feed our families. We too have felt the light of freedom in our lives.
Secondly, I ask the United Nations, the World Bank and world leaders to not legitimize General Min Aung Hlaing and his pseudo government. The man with a stick, the man with a gun, the man with his finger on the trigger is not a man with the best intentions of the people in mind. The people of Myanmar will do all we can with our personal agency. We will boycott him, we will keep our money out of military businesses, we will drum our pots and pans every night, we will remember those who legitimized him despite our suffering. Legitimizing the General and his acts of tyranny delegitimizes the votes cast in November of 2020. Let our votes be counted as they were given, let our vote speak our will.
I write this letter knowing the very real repercussions I and my family may face. I will end this letter with the wishes of our people;
May all people of Myanmar break free from this cycle of oppression.
May we live with basic human rights and dignity.
May all our votes be respected.
May no one have to flee their country for fear of violence.
May all communities heal from the atrocities that have been afflicted on us by the military.
May all children be free to remember those who have fought to uphold our democracy and those who have fought for our independence.
May our generation be the last to suffer under this military.
May our country be our own.
May the military regime fall.
Do forward this letter to any collective, or international or regional organisation that may help to share it and add international pressure to the ongoing military coup in Myanmar.
(From February 13, 2021)