Myanmar actress Mya Hnin Ye Lwin on her decision to join the anti-junta resistance

Myanmar's Mya Hnin Ye Lwin during her modeling and acting days (L) and after fleeing to the jungle to join the fight against the junta. Photo and caption from Radio Free Asia.

This article is from Radio Free Asia (RFA) and is republished here with permission. Written by Aye Aye Mon for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar's ‘Spring Revolution’ has mobilized thousands of citizens who are calling for the immediate restoration of civilian rule following the February 1 coup. It reflects the strong and broad opposition to the junta which has failed to suppress the pro-democracy movement. Global Voices is publishing stories from contributors and media partners which highlight the defiance of Myanmar protesters and their appeal for solidarity to end the military dictatorship. Read more stories in our special coverage page.

Myanmar model and television and film actor Mya Hnin Ye Lwin, 34, gained widespread recognition for her roles in popular TV drama series and 10 movies, including the 2016 legal drama “Angel of Eden” and the 2018 romantic comedy “Yee Sar Ta Won Kwal.” She also holds a degree in psychology from Dagon University in Myanmar.

Earlier this year, she returned to the spotlight, but this time as one of the most active celebrities in the resistance movement against the national military’s seizure of power on February 1. Mya Hnin Yee Lwin has denounced the coup at anti-junta rallies and on social media. In response, the military government in April issued a warrant for her arrest for inciting the public to disturb the peace and stability of the nation. Although she has fled Yangon and sought refuge in a rebel-controlled “liberated” area, she has vowed to keep up the fight against the junta. Reporter Aye Aye Mon of RFA’s Myanmar Service spoke to Mya Hnin Ye Lwin about her decision to join in the anti-junta activities. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

RFA: Many film and music artists have joined the protests against the February 1 military takeover, but most of them did not choose to take up arms. Why did you decide to join the protests and stand up for the people?

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin: I took part in the protests after hearing the shocking news about the coup that morning on February 1. I felt that it was an injustice against the people and decided to join the protests. In the beginning, I did not have much fear because there were so many people, thousands of us trying to peacefully express what we wanted for the country. Later on, when arrests were made and a warrant was issued against me under Section 505(a) [of Myanmar’s Penal Code], I became a little frightened of what might become of me if I was arrested. I went into hiding at first and decided later to join the resistance, despite the fear in my heart.

RFA: You come from a very well-off and educated family and have been quite successful in your career. Do you find daily life to be very difficult in your present situation?

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin: I had never dreamed about, not even joked about, spending my days in the jungle like this. Of course, there are hardships. Food and shelter are poor. Sanitary conditions are unspeakable, especially for a young woman like me. Sometimes it is a little disheartening and I have to lift up my spirits by thinking about those who have made greater sacrifices. I have no regrets, and now I have become used to life here. The changes in life were so sudden, and I have had to adjust myself mentally as well as physically.

RFA: You must miss home.

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin: Of course, I miss home very much sometimes, but we told ourselves we cannot go home yet. We have decided to make sacrifices for the people. And with that in mind, even when looking at posts and pictures on social media, I put my emotions aside and just look at them as a third person.

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin (left photo in the black cap) takes part in a street protest after the Feb. 1 coup; the actor (right photo) impersonates Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest. Credit: Mya Hnin Ye Lwin/Facebook. Photo and caption from Radio Free Asia.

RFA: Some people say that you resemble former Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in photos posted on Facebook. When did you first realize that you look like her?

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin: People began noticing that I looked very much like her when they saw pictures of me in interviews with some media [outlets]. At one time, a photographer friend asked me to model for him, and I dressed up in a long-sleeve top with long hair flowing down like Amay [Mother] Suu. I have a habit of learning the styles and movements of people I’m portraying even though I may not totally resemble them physically. More people noticed the resemblance one day at the protests. That day, all the women protesters were asked to wear traditional Myanmar dresses and wear a flower in their hair the way Amay Suu always does. I dressed up accordingly, and people saw how much I look like her.

RFA: Many people have made sacrifices but for some, successful people like you, the sacrifice is greater. How do you feel about leaving behind all you have worked for?

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin: Like I said earlier, there were days when I felt a bit down in the dumps. But I try not to think of how many sacrifices I have made. The hardships we face each day are nothing compared to the lives of those who gave up life and limb and those who have been imprisoned. With such thoughts in my mind, I will carry on this fight until we have victory.

RFA: What do you think of the daily killings and fighting across the country at present?

Mya Hnin Ye Lwin: All this unnecessary violence and killings stemmed from the brutal suppression of peaceful protesters by the junta. Millions of people peacefully protesting on the streets were all unarmed, but the junta resorted to violence that resulted in bloodshed on the streets and arbitrary arrests and killings. People were not even safe in their own homes, and finally they had no other choice but to take up arms to protect themselves and their families. We will have to fight on until we win so as to honor those who have given their lives.

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