Myanmar’s Lost Generation: The Nation’s Youth Sacrifice Their Future for Freedom | Global development


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For the youth of Myanmar, 2021 was supposed to be a year of optimism. After seeing through the Covid-19 pandemic, the deployment of the vaccine had begun and the general elections in November marked a step towards the realization of its potential by the country.

But following the February 1 coup, their dreams turned into nightmares as many young people in Myanmar found themselves forced to sacrifice their future to take a stand against the military.

Budding engineer Hlyan Phyo Aung, 22, is one of them. The Myanmar Now news portal reported that he was injured in an explosion during the crackdown on a protest in the central town of Magway on March 27. One soldier reportedly shot his injured hand at close range, another fired several rubber bullets into his other hand, then the soldiers kicked him in the face until spectators pounced on him. saving life.

His right hand was amputated at the wrist; he may also permanently lose the use of his left hand. His left leg has been hit eight times and can also be amputated, his right thigh has two gunshot wounds, his face has been beaten, and the damage to his eyesight from the impact of the gunshots may also be irreparable. The military has barred him from receiving treatment outside one of its own hospitals and also accuses him of incitement, which can lead to up to three years in prison.

His story echoes the brutality endured by other protesters of his generation. Among the first civilian casualties, a 19-year-old girl was shot in the head by security forces. Then came a never-ending list of ruined futures – a 24-year-old father who lost his leg after being shot in Yangon on March 10, in the northwestern Sagaing region, a 20-year-old man whose leg was also amputee. after the army allegedly threw a hand grenade, a 19-year-old student shot dead near Yangon on March 27, and even younger victims the same day, such as a 14-year-old girl who died in her home after security forces . sprayed bullets in a neighborhood and a seven-year-old girl was shot dead while sitting on her father’s lap in Mandalay.

Some of those who survived the attacks have been maimed for life or are unable to work due to their injuries.

‘I wanted a happy life’

“I wrote content, worked hard and spent a lot of time with friends,” says Wai, 21, an online culture writer. “My future was clear: I wanted a good job, a happy family and a peaceful life.”

But since the military took power, Wai’s main goal has been to avoid junta forces, which have killed and maimed hundreds of his peers. Now unemployed due to the economic crisis triggered by the coup, he fears that the junta troops will track him down.

A 2014 consensus showed that over 50% of Myanmar’s population was under the age of 30. This segment has first-hand knowledge of the disastrous military regime that for decades impoverished a once prosperous nation, but also a decade of exposure to the outside world. as well as better access to information, education and employment opportunities. Confronted once again with a military dictatorship, their role in the anti-coup movement is a testament to the sacrifices they are prepared to make for hard-won rights.

Children play with guns next to banner put up by activists to protest military coup in Yangon
Children play with guns next to banner put up by activists to protest military coup in Yangon Photography: AFP / Getty Images

“If the junta defeats this revolution, our future is gone,” said Wai, who saw another protester shot dead in northern Okkalapa, a commune in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, on March 8 – a week before martial law was declared in the region.

“If they win, I won’t get married or have children because I don’t want my family to live under their control. International relations would be ruined and life would become like North Korea. We will protest as much as possible until we win. It is worth giving your life for the next generation. “

Regime forces have killed at least 714 people since the coup, according to the Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), but hundreds more have likely been seriously injured by live ammunition, mortar fire, gunfire and gunfire. hand grenades and other weapons used by the military. .

The country risks sinking into a “full-fledged conflict”, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who on Tuesday urged countries to push the military to end its violent crackdown against citizens.

Following the latest massacre of at least 82 civilians in Bago, she said the world “must not allow the deadly mistakes of the past in Syria and elsewhere to be repeated”.

The atrocities have become increasingly difficult to record due to the end of the mobile data and wireless broadband regime which has blocked internet access for most of the population. Meanwhile, analysts have warned of a dramatic reversal in Myanmar’s economic progress over the past decade. The World Bank has forecast the economy to contract 10 percent in 2021, but Fitch Solutions has forecast a 20 percent drop in growth for fiscal year 2020-2021 and an impending “economic collapse”.

While some protesters have started using makeshift weapons against security forces, hundreds more are said to travel to territories controlled by ethnic armed groups where they receive basic warfare training. Clashes are escalating between the ethnic groups and the Tatmadaw, who have deployed deadly airstrikes near Myanmar’s borders with China and Thailand. Recent reports indicate that the military also sentenced 23 people to death after secret trials, including four protesters.

Crying woman gives the three-fingered salute while holding a portrait of her relative shot dead a day earlier by security forces
Crying woman gives the three-fingered salute while holding a portrait of her relative shot dead a day earlier by security forces Photographie: Aung Kyaw Htet / SOPA Images / REX / Shutterstock

Futures in ruins

Another victim of military brutality was Thet Paing Soe, 30, who supported his mother with her salary as a driver.

On March 20, Thet Paing Soe was shot dead while hiding from security forces in an alley in Tamwe County, Yangon. His family rushed the funeral because they feared the soldiers would take the body.

The second youngest of six siblings and not yet married, his loss “could not be expressed in words,” the brother said. “I’m still in pain,” he said. “If it were possible, I would retaliate, but [without weapons] we are still not in a position to do so. “

After glimpsing life under a government chosen by the people, Min Thura, 23, felt he had no choice but to protest against a return to military rule.

On the front line of protests against coup in Myanmar: 'We do not accept this dictatorship' - video
On the front line of protests against coup in Myanmar: “We do not accept this dictatorship” – video

Before the coup, he applied for a warehouse job in Yangon, and on March 4 the good news arrived: his interview was a success. But it was too late by then. Security forces shot him in the left eye with a rubber bullet the day before, also injuring his right eye. Forced to decline the role and go to family care, he said his doctor doubted he would get his sight back.

“I have to accept that I won’t be able to see anymore,” he said.

As plans come together for a federal army to take on the Tatmadaw, Min Thura said young people should join the resistance.

“I no longer want our citizens to be injured or die because we are all brothers and sisters,” he said, adding that if the international community is considering helping, “please help us as soon as possible.”

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