MAE SOT, THAILAND – When Myanmar’s military shocked the world by announcing
a coup earlier this year, many people inside the
country were stunned at the news. After decades under military rule,
they had enjoyed 10 years of
a developing democracy until the armed forces took back
Initially, most of the country merely looked on, hesitant to
begin a rebellion given Myanmar’s violent past. But as the junta installed its
own Cabinet and detained members of the National League for Democracy,
including leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an uprising began brewing.
Residents banged pots and pans in anger in the first few days
after the coup, signaling their disapproval of the military
takeover. Major protests didn’t materialize until the influence
of one doctor turned activist became apparent.
Dr. Ko Tayzar San, 33, from Mandalay, is largely
credited with leading the first anti-coup demonstrations, a movement that
is now known as the Spring Revolution. Today, he is on the run.
He recalls the first moments of the rebellion against the junta,
officially the State Administrative Council (SAC).
Infuriated with the armed forces takeover, some
people had planned an immediate backlash,
but the swirling rumors of a coup could not be
“On February 1, they (Myanmar military) turned off the mobile network in
the whole country. At that moment, we didn’t confirm any information,
what is going on and what is happening,” Tayzar
San told VOA.
Three days later, he took to the
streets of Mandalay to protest with friends and other
demonstrators who resisted the military’s power grab. Four of his friends were
arrested that day, and one has since been killed.
Soon after, the soldiers came for him. The activist knew
then that his life would never be the same.
“As for me, the soldiers raided and destroyed my home, where my family
lived before the coup. They knew my home address, so they came
looking for me and smashed and break the whole house, confiscated everything
and three cars.”
“I already know from that moment I decided to get involved. Anytime I can
be arrested. Anytime I could be shot and killed, and life could
be ruined. … That we already knew and accepted,” he said.
On the run
Speaking from an undisclosed location, Tayzar San said he misses his family
the most. He added that it was recently his
daughter’s second birthday, and he hadn’t seen
her for over 120 days.
“I have been on the run for a long time. My arrest warrant has been issued
since the third week of February. I have not been home since February
2,” he said.
But he believes the heightened security concerns are felt everywhere.
“If you live in your own home, you could be shot at any time. You can be
arrested for no reason, (and) maybe threatened (with) your
life. There is no security in the whole country right now.”
Until recently, Tayzar San hadn’t been known for his
pro-democracy advocacy, especially when compared with other
well-known activists who have risen to prominence in
response to Myanmar’s deep-rooted political issues in recent years.
“Before the coup, my professional work
was (as) executive director at Yone Kyi Yar Knowledge
Propagation Society, a civil society organization in Mandalay. And I
am also a doctor, so I do medical treatment in charity
But ever since Myanmar’s anti-coup protests first
erupted across the country, Tayzar San has been involved. Four and a half
months on, he’s still at it, often seen roaring into a megaphone in
And his efforts have recently been rewarded. Local media reported how he was the recipient of
South Korea’s June Democratic Uprising award, named after the
1987 uprising that led to South Korea’s democratization.
“A lot has been given in these four months. Many people
have fallen, and many lives have been lost, and people are in
prison,” he said, adding that Myanmar is facing both socioeconomic and
“Today, Myanmar is in the darkest time.
However, in the midst of so much suffering, the people are fully in
the mood to reject the dictator,” he added.
Protests peaked during the first two months after the coup, but since
then, mass demonstrations have waned, largely due to the
military’s violent crackdown on the city. According to the Assistance
Association for Political Prisoners,
a rights-monitoring group based in Thailand, at least 860 have been
killed and thousands detained.
Tayzar San said demonstrators had been given no option but
to respond with “guerrilla protests.”
“We will oppose this dictatorship any way we can,” he said.
As for international intervention, Tayzar San believes implementing an arms
embargo would reduce the Myanmar military’s arsenal of weapons.
“I believe that the role of the international community will continue to
support as long as the people of the country continue to fight,” he
New opposition movements and organizations have formed since the coup. The
Civil Disobedience Movement has led to huge strikes across the country, while
the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw includes ousted
politicians of the democratic government. The National Unity Government is
claiming to be Myanmar’s legitimate administration, with the
People’s Defense Force as its armed wing. The junta has declared
Yet challenges remain. Ethnic minority groups have
been fighting for autonomy and land control for over 70
years, and deep historical animosities exist among them.
But with the military’s coup so drastic and far-reaching, hopes are pinned on
the country to unite against one common enemy.
“To make our country peaceful, where people are treated as human beings, it
is very clear that this will only happen if we can create a federal democratic
union,” Tayzar San said.
“For me, the
new Myanmar (will be a) happy country that we want to pass on to the
next generation,” he added. June 15, 2021
Hearings Resume for Myanmar’s Deposed Civilian
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has been detained
since February 1, when her civilian government was overthrown nearly three
months after her National League for Democracy party scored a landslide victory
in the elections. The junta has cited widespread electoral fraud in
the November 8 election as a reason for the coup, an allegation the civilian
electoral commission denied.