Burner telephones, safehouses, sheltering with rebels and months away from family members — Myanmar anti-coup activists have been pushed underground by a brutal crackdown however haven’t any regrets about selecting life on the run.
Myanmar has been in turmoil for the reason that armed forces ousted civilian chief Aung San Suu Kyi in February, plunging the nation again underneath navy rule after a 10-year experiment with democracy.
The ability seize triggered a large rebellion which the junta has sought to quell with mass arrests and bloody crackdowns.
Some — like longtime activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi — had all the time identified they could have to depart their residence and household so as to sustain their battle towards the regime.
“It is one thing I anticipated in my life as an activist,” she advised AFP by telephone from a hidden location.
The 29-year-old is among the many lots of of social media-savvy fugitives — social influencers, celebrities, activists and journalists — wished by the junta for disseminating info that “causes worry”.
“When (the coup) occurred, we discovered that many individuals have been on the run,” she mentioned.
“We did not anticipate that we’d have an rebellion like this and odd folks would grow to be protesters and activists.”
However for Ko Ko — not his actual title — the lifetime of a fugitive was one thing a lot tougher to think about.
Simply months in the past he was working full-time at a authorities hospital on Myanmar’s Covid response.
“The whole lot has modified,” mentioned the 30-year-old physician, who now organises covert tele-medicine consultations for anti-coup protesters too afraid to go to navy hospitals.
Transferring continuously to keep away from arrest, Ko Ko mentioned he “stopped counting the times” after Myanmar’s Thingyan New 12 months competition in April — a interval normally spent celebrating with household.
– All the time on guard –
Myanmar’s medical staff have been among the many first to affix a nationwide anti-junta motion, which grew to carry lots of of 1000’s to the streets.
By March, Ko Ko was coaching civilians to provide first assist because the junta crackdown on dissent grew bloodier.
However growing raids on makeshift trauma centres and mass arrests of healthcare staff have been a wake-up name.
“In the event that they discovered me, what would they do to my household?” he recalled pondering.
Two days after Armed Forces Day in March — the one deadliest day for the reason that coup, with greater than 100 folks killed throughout the nation — Ko Ko determined to depart his spouse and oldsters.
After two weeks slipping furtively from home to deal with, he fled to territory managed by a insurgent group close to the border with Thailand.
All the time on alert, he carries a burner telephone with a pretend Fb account in case authorities cease him.
“Each minute that I hear a automotive cease out entrance or if there is a loud voice, I all the time exit and verify,” he advised AFP.
He’s at present working to supply provides for a makeshift hospital he and different medical doctors are organising — an enormous departure from his life simply 4 months earlier.
– ‘That is our responsibility’ –
Greater than 850 folks have been killed for the reason that coup whereas 1000’s languish behind bars, in line with an area monitoring group.
“It is a nightmare,” mentioned musician Ko Thein — a pseudonym — who grew in prominence for his vitriolic Fb posts concerning the navy after it ousted Suu Kyi’s authorities.
He had stubbornly refused to enter hiding regardless of weeks of warnings from pals.
However when his title was broadcast on the nightly state-run TV information in early April, he instantly packed a bag, mentioned farewell to his sister, and stole away from the again door of his condominium constructing.
“I did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to my canine. He died on Might 4,” he mentioned, talking to AFP from an undisclosed location.
Nonetheless, he continues to share info on Fb, and his profile as a permits him to attach native civilian teams with a shadow authorities working to oust the junta.
“I by no means really feel remorse about posting issues. That is our responsibility as residents of Myanmar,” Ko Thein mentioned, although he admits he misses his household.
Even for a seasoned activist like Thinzar Shunlei Yi, life on the run will be isolating, and monitoring the information will be “mentally draining”.
“But it surely additionally provides us power as a result of many individuals have suffered and sacrificed their lives,” she mentioned.
“We have to preserve shifting, it doesn’t matter what.”
© 2021 AFP