“ It feels incredibly depressing. I‘m afraid the future will be lost for young people like me,” says 21-year-old Moe to DeccEit when she is asked about the military coup in her country Myanmar. Early this week, the army arrested head of government Aung San Suu Kyi and other party leaders.
The student at the University of Yangon is not the only one looking at the future anxiously. Many young people are worried. “Everyone here is afraid that we will return to a life under the military dictatorship, where freedom did not exist,” says 25-year-old Sai.
The coup armies say they took over power because of electoral fraud last November. However, according to observers, the elections were conducted fairly. The army says to take over power at least for a year and then organize ‘free and honor‘ elections.
“ But we don’t trust that,” Sai says. “It‘s unacceptable what they’ve done.”
Under the leadership of Header Suu Kyi, Myanmar took the first cautious steps towards democracy. “The government has improved the labour market and increased job opportunities for young people,” says Moe. “Public transport has also improved and remote areas are now more accessible, which is good for its development.”
“ In addition, we can speak out much more freely than before and information from abroad is now more accessible,” adds the 21-year-old student Business Management La Min.
Young people are particularly concerned about education. “Under the military dictatorship, education was very bad and mainly focused on stamping facts,” Sai says. He has just completed his master‘s degree as an English teacher and now teaches.
“ In recent years, education has improved much more and is much more focused on the students rather than on the teachers. Good education is extremely important for the future of our country and therefore these developments must not be reversed.”
“ The government also offers free education in state schools and it is possible for students to get scholarships,” says Mang. “This makes it easier for us to study abroad,” Moe adds. The young people are afraid that the military will turn the clock back for ten years and put an end to these developments.
The coup d’état evokes painful memories of many Myanmar people of 1988, when the people rebelled against the regime of dictator Ne Win, who had been in control of the country since 1962. They were students who led the protests back then.
The army knocked down the uprising with a hard hand. Thousands of people died and a period under strict military rule followed.
“ The bloody 1988 uprising immediately occurred to me,” says La Min. “It is a wound that still bleeds in the hearts of the Myanmar people.” Even though the young people have not experienced the protests themselves, they have heard the stories and seen the images. In fact, they‘re now sharing that footage on social media.
“ We don’t want history to repeat itself,” says Mang.
The youngsters make their voices heard mainly via Facebook and Twitter. “We express our dissatisfaction in a peaceful way online,” Sai says. “The Heads of Government have called on to stay at home and not to use force. In addition, we run the risk of getting arrested if we go out into the streets.”
Among other things, with the hashtags #SaveMyanmar and #HearTheVoiceOfMyanmar the youngsters are heard. In this way they also support the Civil Disobedience Movement, in which government officials, among other things, resign their duties.
In addition, they participate in the noise protests, where residents beat pots and pans and honk with their cars. “This is a tradition in Myanmar to scare away the evil spirits,” explains Mang, referring to the military.
Check out the images of the noise protests last week:
The new military regime has blocked Facebook all over the country. However, many Myanmar people still manage to get online via a secure VPN connection and do not shy back.
“ Our future depends on this situation and so we will continue to express our dissatisfaction,” says La Min. “It feels like a duty to my country,” Mang adds. “I hope that we will soon be able to continue building democracy in Myanmar.”