The alarm went off, startling us awake. I could hear at least two of the children were up. I reached for my phone to check for any messages that had come in overnight. There was nothing, which was unusual. “The wifi isn’t working,” I said.
Then we realised we had no phone service either. We opened our back door which leads to our neighbour’s kitchen and were met with the pungent smell of fish paste and a look of shock on our neighbour’s face. In hushed tones, as if we might be overheard, she explained, “The military have arrested all the government officials, they’ve taken over, there’s been a coup”. Our hearts sank. There had been rumours but we just never thought it would actually happen.
After the initial shock of the coup, the people quickly began to react and activists started to get organised. We gathered the children to go and add our voices to the protests. Huge numbers of people were congregating in certain key spots in the city, one close to our home. These tens of thousands had one goal; to show their disgust at the military imprisoning their elected leaders and to express their desire for democracy.
We pushed our way through the mass of people; everyone friendly and the atmosphere almost jovial. People were chanting so loudly the children covered their ears. Pro-democracy slogans were repeated so often that our children learnt them and joined in. Our youngest was hoisted up onto his dad’s shoulders for fear of losing him.
Street vendors, who had made nothing during the restrictions of Covid-19, were now making good business. Others sold placards and t-shirts with the faces of the ousted government and gave free food and water to the demonstrators.
In the evenings, we took our pots and pans out onto our balcony. We joined in the cacophony of banging as the whole community united in their heartache at what had happened. For fifteen minutes we banged and chanted. We did our part; marching, lighting candles, giving out cookies, juice and fried rice.
“…they would come using searchlights to illuminate anyone banging pots or chanting. You could be shot on a soldier’s whim, or arrested.”
But then, as we were all fearfully anticipating, it became violent. The protestors were still peaceful, intent on a calm display of resistance, but the Generals could no longer accept their opposition. It started with water cannons and sling shots, then rubber bullets and tear gas. Soon live rounds were used, quickly followed by grenades and even airstrikes.
At this time night time raids increased and thousands were arrested, while convicted criminals were released, both to make space in the prisons and to cause havoc in the communities. Many of those arrested in night time raids were cruelly tortured and died.
The protestors on the streets built barricades to give themselves time to run and hide if the military came. And they did come. And they murdered the mostly young, unarmed, defenceless protestors.
Each day we would wake up to read of new atrocities. Soldiers walked on the streets outside our home. Often at night time they would come using searchlights to illuminate anyone banging pots or chanting. You could be shot on a soldier’s whim, or arrested. This is the life we lived; we still live it now.
The nightmare isn’t over yet. The fight is not finished. The Myanmar people’s desire is for freedom and peace but it seems they can not have one without forfeiting the other. What the days ahead will bring we don’t know but we are eternally grateful that our God does. Please pray for Myanmar.