Five popular comedians who fled Myanmar’s largest city Yangon to join an anti-coup militia said Thursday that they were compelled to take up arms because of the junta’s brutality and urged the public not to become complacent in its fight to regain power from the regime.
Toe Kyaw, Wyne Kyaw, Taing Kyaw, Pyi Kyaw, and Poe Lay recently gave up cracking jokes on stage in exchange for combat training in the Yoma jungles of Bago region. The five members of the Har Ngar Kaung (Five Ha-has) Comedy Group are the latest of several high-profile entertainers and artists to join a militia since the military ousted the country’s democratically elected civilian government in a Feb. 1 coup d’état.
“As artists, we want to put on makeup and perform on stage, but now we are holding guns to fight back against this inhuman dictatorship,” said Toe Kyaw, adding that while aspiring to become a comedian, he could never have anticipated one day being taught military tactics.
Wyne Kyaw told RFA’s Myanmar Service that no performer ever intends to take up arms but said he and his fellow troupe members decided to do so “because there is no alternative.”
“We don’t fear holding guns—our goal is to overthrow the tyrants,” he said.
Taing Kyaw said that morality and strong conviction are advantages the public can use to defeat their oppressors.
“Though our training has been short, our desire to win and our conviction will help us, even though we may not have as much [combat] experience as them,” he said.
“Our People’s Army, armed with a solid conviction, can win no matter how well-organized they are.”
Sacrifices for the nation
Myanmar’s military says its takeover was justified because a landslide victory by the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) in the country’s November 2020 elections was the result of widespread voter fraud but has yet to produce any evidence of the claims. In the five months since, the junta has violently cracked down on widespread protests, killing 885 people and arresting 5,195, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Har Ngar Kaung comedian Pyi Kyaw told RFA expressed sadness over the deaths of so many of his fellow citizens.
“I feel sorry for those who have fallen,” he said. “The life of one protester cannot even be replaced by a hundred of them. Each death feels like I have lost a loved one in my family.”
Poe Lay, his fellow troupe member, acknowledged that life in the jungle “is not easy,” but said he is proud to be a part of the anti-junta resistance.
“Good food is not that important to us, but it is very uncomfortable when it rains and we have to endure insect bites and the rashes that follow,” he said.
“That said, these were things we knew we would have to face when we made the decision to join up.”
Armed and famous
At least 20 celebrities have been arrested and more than 100 are in hiding after taking part in anti-junta protests and offering their support to the nation’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), including film actors, directors, composers, singers, artists, and models. Several others have joined anti-junta militias and urged the public to keep up its pressure on the military to step aside.
The five members of the Har Ngar Kaung group and the fighters they are training with told RFA they have allied themselves with the country’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and are “waiting for a nationwide call” from the People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia it organized to protect the public from the military.
They called on their fellow citizens not to give up in the fight against the junta and told RFA they have no doubt that “the people will prevail.”
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