‘We Need to Prepare Ourselves to Show Up in Huge Numbers,’ Says Monywa Activist

Monywa – a city of 370,000 people noted for food processing, cotton textiles, and ancient Buddhist temples, and the largest city in northwestern Myanmar – has seen an uptick in violence and deaths in the recent weeks of protests against the Feb. 1 military coup. At least 15 people have been killed, and more 30 protesters – many students – have been arrested, with most of the student activists charged with defamation and incitement under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code. RFA’s Myanmar Service spoke to Hein Zaw Win, a former student activist in Monywa, for an update on the state of play in the city.

RFA: Please tell us about the situation there. How many casualties are there in Monywa?

Hein Zaw Win: At least 15 people have died here in Monywa and over 30 have been arrested. There were 33 wounded (on April 1) alone. They are now changing their tactics. They do not crack down on the protests directly but instead they lie in wait on the protesters way home to make arrests. They stop motorcycles and check mobile phones. They also take away those who have tattoos saying 'Spring Revolution' on their bodies. They mainly target youths and release those they think are not important.

RFA: How many members of the student union are among those arrested?

Hein Zaw Win: The first to get arrested was Shin Thant, the president of our student union. He was arrested at home at night. Then Arkar Htet Hmu, a former member of Bakatha (Burma Students Union), was arrested during a crackdown on our motorcycle column. Two more, Thaung Htut Kyaw, the current president of the union, and Pyi Soe Maung Maung, a union member, were arrested (on March 31). At the time of their arrests, they were forced to kneel down on the ground and were beaten up.

RFA: Where are they being held and under what charges?

Hein Zaw Win: At Monywa Police Station. All the students were held under Section 505(a).

RFA: The shadow parliament has abolished 2008 Constitution. What do the activists in Monywa people think of this?

Hein Zaw Win: We people in Monywa had already burned the 2008 Constitution during our protests about two weeks ago. We never accepted the 2008 Constitution and we are burning some more copies of it today (April 1).

RFA: What are your future plans?

Hein Zaw Win: We have noticed that it is quite effective to confront (the regime) in big numbers. So we need to prepare ourselves to show up in huge numbers. Another thing is we have the right to defend ourselves. We shouldn't let them do what they like to us. It is the rightful thing to defend ourselves and I want to share this message with others.

Source: Radio Free Asia