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Two years on, Myanmar coup has ‘catastrophic record’

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Two years on

Jan 31 (Reuters) – Two years after Myanmar’s military coup, a young factory worker turned resistance fighter is mourning the loss of his leg in battle. A former diplomat has not seen his family for four years. A beauty queen adjusts to a new life in wintery Canada. And an exiled teacher dreams of going back to school.

Two years on

The February 1, 2021 coup that toppled the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi left a trail of shattered lives in its wake.

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According to US-based conflict monitoring group Acled, around 19,000 people died last year as a crackdown on protests led many to take up arms against the military.

Two years on

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Some 1.2 million people have been displaced and more than 70,000 have left the country, according to the UN, which has accused the army of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Burmese army says it is waging a legitimate campaign against “terrorists”. He did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

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Two years on

The stories of four people reflect a crisis that the UN special envoy warned last week was taking a “catastrophic toll” on the population.


Two years on

Aye Chan heard the rat-tat-tat of gunfire followed by an explosion.

“I didn’t know if I had been hit or not,” the 21-year-old told Reuters, recalling the military attack last year that cost him his leg.

When he tried to stand, his legs wouldn’t work. A comrade rushed him to hospital where he woke up to find one had had his knee amputated.

Two years on

A factory worker making instant noodles before the coup, he had been among the massive crowds that took to the streets to demand the restoration of democracy after the coup.

When protest groups began to take up arms, he joined them.

Two years on

The first time on the front, his heart was pounding.

“Then I looked around at my comrades and they were smiling and laughing. I wasn’t scared.

Although the morale of resistance troops is high, he said, they are outmatched by a well-equipped army.

“When they shoot, they shoot continuously, we can’t even look up,” he said. “We also have to save bullets.”

Two years on

Now he spends most of his days sleeping, cooking and sharing food with friends. “I try to live my life as happy as possible,” he said. “I can’t do the things I’ve done before.”

Reuters does not disclose his whereabouts for security reasons.

He does not regret having joined the resistance.

Two years on

“If I recover enough, I will go back to war. It’s until the end.


Aung Soe Moe, 52, was the first secretary of Myanmar’s embassy in Japan when the coup happened.

Two years on

A month later, he joined hundreds of thousands of government workers who resigned to join the civil disobedience movement, which aimed to cripple the military’s ability to govern.

His wife, stuck in Myanmar with her daughter after the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraged him to speak out. They then fled across the border to Thailand, where many Myanmar residents sought refuge but were trapped without papers. He has not seen them since 2019.

Two years on

Alone in Tokyo, he had to leave his sumptuous three-bed apartment on the embassy grounds. With her source of income gone, other Myanmar residents in Japan offered money to cover her basic needs and rent a cramped studio.

Two years on

The Japanese government has extended Aung Soe Moe’s diplomatic visa so he can stay in Tokyo, but he cannot work and that visa expires in July. The Japanese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on its future status.

“I have suffered a lot but there is nothing worse than losing the future of the people of Myanmar,” he told Reuters.

He volunteers a few days a week doing administrative tasks such as writing social media posts for Myanmar’s National Unity Government – a parallel civilian government set up after the coup.

He fears that the world will forget Myanmar, especially since the war in Ukraine.

“But the people of Myanmar have not given up on the truth,” he said. “We will never give up!”


When the military took over, 23-year-old Han Lay was a model about to enter an international beauty pageant in Thailand.

After protesting with friends, she decided to use her platform to talk about Myanmar. The night before, she couldn’t sleep from excitement and worry, she said.

On stage, she held back tears as she spoke of military violence on a day when more than 140 protesters were killed. The clip went viral.

In Myanmar, the army accused her of sedition.

She was held at a Bangkok airport for several days, pleading on social media not to be returned to Myanmar.

Eventually, she flew to Canada and settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with a Canadian Burmese family, refugees from the 1988 democratic uprising also crushed by the military.

She said she felt lonely when she arrived, but she was adjusting.

“I was born in Myanmar, and my family, my friends and my future, everything (is) in Myanmar… I couldn’t have the chance to meet them, I miss them every day,” she said.


A middle school teacher has lived in a Thai border town since fleeing arrest in Myanmar last year.

A slim woman with long black hair, she joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) that arose after the coup. She asked not to be named, for fear of military reprisals.

“I knew my life would get tough if I joined CDM,” she said. “But if we don’t revolt, it won’t be OK for our future.”

She joined the street protests dressed in her green and white teacher’s uniform and fled the country after the crackdown.

Like many Myanmar refugees in Thailand, she is undocumented and lives in fear of being arrested.

She earns a living by crocheting bags and clothes, earning less than $10 a week and dependent on food donations from the parallel civilian government.

“I’ll be a CDM-er until the end,” she said. “A person has to go through both good times and bad times.

Her green and white uniform is safe in Myanmar, she said, neatly stored, in case she returns.

Reporting by Reuters staff in Asia, John Geddie in Tokyo and Wa Lone in London, Ontario; Written by Poppy McPherson; Edition by Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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