Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Former ABSDF comrade Bobo’s journey (1)

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May Thingyan Hein (Myit Makha)
A 40-year-old with a glass perching on his nose and hair falling on his face is called Bobo.
When I first learned about the killings in the northern ABSDF dispatch, I imagined Bobo as a 15-year-old boy holding a gun.
But that is totally different when I see him: he is older and more mature and no longer an armed boy.
Nowadays, the name Bobo is compared with a man who is leading the White Holding Hands, which is providing aid to the Kachin refugee camps.
He is a heavy smoker. A cigarette is always in his hand when he is talking to me. He uses his hands to emphasis what he is talking. When he recounts the atrocities of the past, tears fill his eyes. But you can see happiness on his face while he is talking a good thing.
What he started with is “I’ll explain the whole situation first. Please ask me questions only after I’ve finished talking.” I started recording once he finished the two sentences.
We, two of my reporters and me, have been taken by his following words.
I feel like I am witnessing that 10-grade student with school involving in the 88 uprising and joining ABSDF in northern Myanmar.
He says:
I loved the army. I kept thinking about joining the army after I finish high school. I can join Defense Service Academy after high school. I usually thought about that. To say, one of my friends’ Dad is Yangon mayor at the time. He always told us ‘Buddy, I will help you join DSA. I can take a good care of you.’ At the time, I greatly respected the army: they sacrifice their lives to protect the country.
I attended No. (4) State High School in Alon. It is there I witnessed soldiers shooting the students. I was really shocked. What would you feel if you see someone you respected your whole life is shooting your dear friends?
I will tell you one thing: it was June, before the uprisings but riots are starting to take place. I still remember it was raining. I was wearing the school longyi. You know I like to participate in some sort of protest. I stole a flag from my home. We grouped together under the Pansotan Bridge. All of us were students.
If we see a student coming, we would signal with eyes to persuade him. We were trying to start a protest. We took a bamboo pole from a nearby street-side shop and put the flag in one end. Accidently it was attached upside down. It was not intentionally. I held the flag and start off. We knew people were following us. They were supporting us.
At the time, a girl of our age, she is also a student, come out and give us lemon slices. She put them in bags us give us. She gave the some slices the mouth of the others who could not take because of holding flags or something. She was beside me for a while before I asked her to take my flag because I want to retighten my longyi.
She took the flag and I took the bags from her. I asked her to give me the flag after I’ve finished. She refused. She wanted to hold the flag and walk in front. Me too. But I didn’t tell. So I kept giving the lemon slices to others and got to the back. At the time I heard soldiers are coming to us. When I was amazed, I heard shootings.
What I always thought is the soldiers would put barriers between the protestors and them before scaring them off. But it was really different. The trucks drove in and the soldiers start to shoot. I saw the girl holding my flag shot. She died at the place. That is when I hate the military. That motivated me to involve in the later protests.
I think the first ever hunger strike in Myanmar was held also. That lasted for 36 hours. I participate in the following protests. In June, July and the rest of the year. At the first, we know nothing about democracy. What we asked for is to support the students’ demonstration, to form students’ union and to release the detained students. We did not intend to overthrow the Ne Winn government.
Think about this, you are sitting in a classroom while your friends are in a jail cell. How can you probably concentrate on the subjects? If you do, you are selfish and cruel. We wanted our friends back to the classrooms. We asked for forming a students’ union as a compensation for the students killed during the protests. The union can protect your rights, you know. There were students’ unions before 1962. Ne Win disbanded the unions. So we asked for allowance for forming unions.
I also hate them because they shoot students dead. That compelled me do participate in another 36 hours hunger strike, 48 hours sit-in and another 72 hours in capitol building. Those events are continuous. They were started after August 24 at the time Dr. Maung Maung had taken the president office.
The next we are planning to hold another protest in Sanchaung. I wanted to go but I could not. I was exhausted from the previous strikes. My Mom is also crying and stopping me. I was only 15 back then. My family is also stopping me. That was then. The military launched a coup on September 19 and I was resting at home when my friends are on the streets.
To be continued

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