This is Ms. Grace Nway Oo (pseudonym), the second person I met among the Myanmar strike officials staying in Korea. Grace Noweu is a Myanmar central government official who came to Korea and is studying for a doctoral program before the outbreak of the military coup. Like more than 200,000 local civil servants who participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), they are refusing to receive military orders as well as pay salaries. In addition, 20% of the scholarships he receives from the Korean government for daily living are donated to citizen disobedience movement participants.
"Myanmar's education level has fallen to the lowest level under the military rule over the past 50 years," said Grace Noweu. "Considering our next generation, should we accept this kind of military regime again?" He said, "I am still confused about whether it is an act of political participation by many of our public servants' colleagues." In particular, Grace Noweu said, "With so many colleagues struggling for democracy in the midst of a dangerous situation, selfish colleagues still support the military and are delighted with dishonorable incentives and opportunities for promotion." "Our path faces many difficulties and faces many deaths. I will never forgive their selfishness."
The following is the full text of the interview with Grace Nowew, which took place from May 9th to 16th. For the personal safety of the person concerned and his/her family, the interview was conducted under a pseudonym and did not contain specific instructions from the ministry and military.
Q. Grace Nowe, hello. Prior to the interview, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the victims of the Myanmar Army and their families. And thank you for responding to the interview in difficult situations. Please introduce us first.
A. I am Grace Nway Oo (pseudonym). The name Nway Oo stands for Myanmar's'Spring Revolution'. Currently I am studying PhD in Korea. I am a civil servant of the Myanmar government participating in the civil disobedience movement of the Spring Revolution.
Q. When and how did you participate in the democracy movement called the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)?
A. Before the military coup, I enjoyed my life with a lot of fun things. As a trainee from Myanmar, all I had to do was fulfill my studies and my duties as a Myanmar civil servant before that. During my years as a civil servant, I was always proud of my work and did my best to fulfill my duty.
But on February 1, when I heard that a military coup took place in Myanmar for election fraud, I was really shocked and discouraged that the votes we used in the election were being joked. With all countries in the world facing the corona19 epidemic, Myanmar's military has created a nation and citizens who have to deal with the worst of all. After seizing power without showing credible evidence (of election denial), the military abolished the elected civilian government and arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar, and other respectable people. Then the overwhelming majority of Myanmar's people began to reject illegal coups. The people of Myanmar have begun to voice their own voices and demand that our government be put back through peaceful protests.
Since then, soldiers and police have begun beating and killing civilians, raiding homes, destroying property, looting shops, and arbitrarily arresting protesters and peaceful passers-by. Nearly 800 people have been killed, more than 4,000 have been arrested, more than 3,000 have been detained, and more than 1,000 have been wanted as the military has stepped up brutal and brutal crackdowns to quell the protests. Many families of those detained do not know exactly where they are.
As such, all the cruel acts of the military shooting and suppressing peaceful protesters are by no means tolerated. Live videos, photos and CCTV footage on social media are like thousands of convictions, and these videos showed how the military killed, beaten, tortured and arrested our civilians, including children, adolescents, women and the elderly. There was no safety for our people, who suffered serious human rights violations after the military coup. Even now, even those who simply stay at home have to constantly worry about what will happen in the future. Journalists were also in danger. They were targeted for repression, and over 80 journalists were arrested. And more than half of them are still in custody.
An important task of a normal army is to protect the country and its citizens. It's not about killing and oppressing them to keep them in power, but protecting them. But look at Myanmar now. Anyone can be arrested by the military for unreliable evidence, or even sentenced to death. No one knows what will happen after being arrested. The lives of those who are detained are not safe. Our girls and women in prison have experienced abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment. So, really, all these cruel and cruel crimes I can never accept.
During the repression, the military attacked medical staff and volunteers, and did not allow treatment of the injured. Those arrested today may have already been predicted to die. The death toll is increasing over time. Anyone who opposes the military regime will be in trouble. The military is simply a terrorist who has no dignity toward humans and is eager to kill people.
Looking back on history, Myanmar's educational level has fallen to its lowest level under more than 50 years of military rule. The research facilities and infrastructure of all universities in Myanmar are inferior to the top universities in Korea. Most children seeking higher education study in other countries because the military regime has established a poor educational system in Myanmar. So, should we embrace such a military regime when we look at the next generation?
The national non-violent movement against civil disobedience and military coups was initiated by medical workers. They were struggling to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic in a very difficult situation. The only way to respond to the military was to deny the work of military power. Many officials from various ministries of the Myanmar government have joined the strike.
Back to my story, I was hoping to study here to improve my skills as well as achieve Myanmar's human resource development. Myanmar is still a developing country and paving the way for democracy. Human resource development is very important and essential in Myanmar. But I couldn't support the military that took power by causing violence to kill people. It is impossible to serve the interests of the state under a military regime. We know that taking part in a strike is a very difficult decision. I will probably have to go through a situation I have never imagined in my life. You can't even predict what will happen. But I firmly believe that now we are standing on the right side and for justice. So the justices, and those who support justice, will surely win. For the above reasons, I decided to join the civil disobedience movement, stand on the right side, and join the people of Myanmar.
Q. I am curious about the specific activities you are doing.
A. Actually, I want to tell you in detail, but it is very difficult to tell it in detail. Each government department in Myanmar checks the accounts of all officials through social media. In other words, we understand how all officials respond to military coups and participate in protests or strikes. Informally, some officials have been notified not to act or say anything against the military regime.
We are very upset that our right to freedom of speech has been violated. Sometimes speaking publicly, but rarely. It depends on the conditions.
Q. You refused to follow the instructions of the military as you said, so maybe you have refused to receive a salary from the government?
A. Yes, I do not want to be paid during the military government. If I wanted to get paid, I would have followed all the instructions of the government under the control of the military government. I'm not taking it. Participating in the civil disobedience movement means that we officially refuse to contact, report, or access anything after joining the strike. So I'm not following any guidelines, and I'm not getting any benefits, such as a salary.
All public officials studying abroad study diligently and fulfill their duties as public officials. The task of completing the study is an obligation. We obtained research permits from the civilian government prior to the military coup. During our studies, we receive salaries from the Myanmar government and scholarships from the Korean government in the name of living expenses in Korea. If you don't join the civil disobedience movement and support the military, you can get paid by the Myanmar government, you don't have to worry about other dangers, and your life is very easy. However, participating in the civil disobedience movement faces many risks and problems.
Q. Do government departments already know that Grace Nowew participated in the civil disobedience movement?
A. It can.
Q. So, did you get a letter from the government telling you not to participate in the civil disobedience movement?
A. It is not clear that all officials are receiving it. However, I heard that many government officials from various ministries are also receiving letters from their offices urging them to absent. Embarrassingly, high-ranking officials in some ministries want to actively support the military. Many students and civil servants are facing a lot of difficulties as these officials actively support the military.
Q. Has Grace Nowew also received a threat letter since deciding to participate in the civil disobedience movement?
A. All official letters will come directly from each government department, not from the military. I also expect to receive a letter from the Buddha. I think there will be a big threat.
Participating in the civil disobedience movement has a different level of punishment for each ministry. We must also see how each ministry minister spoke and warned. For example, the Ministry of Education recently announced penalties for participants in the civil disobedience movement, such as firing and disciplinary action, as well as finesing professors, lectures, and employees at all universities.
Q. As long as the military is in power, you cannot return to Myanmar, right?
A. Anyone who participates in the strike can be ordered to be detained or fired, can be charged with criminal offenses, and face high penalties. The real military detained the family on their behalf when they couldn't find members of the civil disobedience movement to kidnap. All the news from Myanmar is really heartbreaking.
Q. Could you tell us in detail about the situation?
A. On March 26th, this subtitle was written on a national TV channel dominated by the military. "You have to accept the lesson that bullets can penetrate the head and back, just like a dead person." This is the subtitle that appeared on national TV. This means that we live in an illegal country where the military wages war against its own people and threatens its people through state TV. The brutal and inhuman criminal acts of the Myanmar military are beyond words.
If you oppose the military regime on social media or participate in a civil disobedience movement, you may be included in the military's warrants and arrests list. If you support the National Unity Government (NUG), a government lawfully elected in the 2020 elections.
Q. I heard that Grace Noweu is doing a lot of support for his colleagues in the civil disobedience movement in Myanmar.
A. It's not just me. Despite the very dangerous situation, those who join justice are taking part in strikes and supporting the civil disobedience movement. In fact, the salaries of Myanmar officials are too limited compared to other countries. Most civil servant families rely on salaries. Currently, employees and their families who participate in the civil disobedience movement face great difficulties in their daily lives. The staff and their families are not free to go outside because the military tries to detain them. Compared to the employees of Myanmar's civil disobedience movement, my life here is very comfortable and safe. So I must support other citizen disobedience movement participants for their sustainable strike participation. That is why I am saving and donating scholarships from the Korean government in the name of living expenses for those who participate in the civil disobedience movement and those who were injured in the war.
Q. You donate the money you saved from scholarships to the citizens of the disobedience movement and the injured.
A. Yes. But not only me, but many people around the world are quietly donating money to the people of Myanmar. It's very difficult to talk about sharing our own money. If the military learns more about support for the civil disobedience movement, it may be included on the warrant.
Q. How much is the donation amount?
A. About 20% of scholarships are donated.
Q. In fact, you donate 20% of the only income you receive in Korea, which is great. You will have to cover all living expenses, housing expenses, and meals with scholarships.
A. I don't drink coffee anymore to donate money for coffee. It is really necessary now to give money and donate to the people of Myanmar. Not only me, but other colleagues are also donating.
Q. How long can I stay in Korea?
A. As a doctoral student in Korea, I have to study for at least 4 years, but I am not sure about the future. All government scholarship students hold official passports with D-2 visas. I hope the Korean government will allow Myanmar to remain stable and stay in Korea with temporary permits and visas until the study is complete. Also, I am receiving scholarships from the Korean government, and I am worried that the military government will notify the scholarship committee and press the scholarship to end or stop.
* As a result of confirmation by the Ministry of Justice of Korea, all Myanmar residents in Korea, regardless of visa holders, are subject to humanitarian special stay measures. The interviewees were also informed that they could apply for an extension of their stay at the immigration office within one month of their visa expiration.
Q. I see. Do you know exactly how many colleagues are involved in the civil disobedience movement?
A. No. Due to the tremendous pressure from the military, it is difficult to know accurate information about all participants in the civil disobedience movement. Some people still mistake participation in the civil disobedience movement as a matter of political participation. All officials are well aware that political participation is prohibited. However, the current crisis in Myanmar is not a fight between political parties and we are not participating in politics either. All we do is participate in a strike to bring justice, freedom, human rights and democracy back to Myanmar's future. It is not to participate in political activities, but to obtain basic human rights.
I have heard that other government officials are receiving letters from their ministries urging them to respond,'Are you participating in or not participating in the civil disobedience movement'. There are colleagues who are willing to participate, but others are still confused between fear and belief. Nevertheless, I think that many people from abroad are participating in the strike.
On the other hand, selfish fellows still exist in government departments and support the military. They will never participate in strikes because they don't want to take risks. Instead of taking the risk, they will be delighted with the dishonorable incentives and opportunities for promotion. Because of these people, our path to justice and democracy faces many challenges and also faces many deaths. If all civil servants join the civil disobedience movement, the military will collapse in a short period of time. That's why I can't understand them, and I'll never forgive their selfishness.
Q. I heard that there are public officials not only in Korea but also in other foreign countries participating in the civil disobedience movement.
A. That's right.
Q. Do you keep in touch with them?
A. Yes. There are various colleagues from the same Buddha and from different departments. They are also officials of Myanmar government ministries like me and overseas trainees. They study in ASEAN, Asian and Western countries and participate in civil disobedience movements.
Q. I would like to ask you some questions regarding support from the international community. As you know, there have been agreements and statements between ASEAN and G7 and the UN regarding the situation in Myanmar. I wonder if you think it worked.
A. Honestly, I don't know much about foreign affairs. However, as a citizen of Myanmar, I would like to share my opinion on the ASEAN Agreement. First of all, we can clearly see from the vast evidence that the military has not stopped violence after the coup. On March 27, the military proudly celebrated Armed Forces Day with representatives from several countries. On the same day, the military killed more than 100 civilians, including children, youth and women. In the same way, during and after the ASEAN Summit, the military regime did not stop violence and fired and killed citizens.
But look. The ASEAN Summit did not include accusations of a military coup, responsibility for crimes committed by the military, or the release of all detainees. It is very difficult to take an important step forward (toward democracy) without pointing out these important points. ASEAN is only giving the military more time to repress its people until power is stabilized.
Q. How about the G7 and the UN?
A. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to all the international community for being with and supporting the people of Myanmar. Some countries are helping Myanmar end the military coup system through statements and sanctions. "I don't care about sanctions because the materials and facilities imported from China and Russia are sufficient for use in Myanmar," said a military spokesman. At the UN conference, you are all aware of the Chinese and Russian interventions to prevent action against Myanmar troops. Because of the support of these countries, the military is not interested in all statements from the United Nations and other international communities. The military is making Myanmar an isolated and failed country.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations said, "There is no room for a coup in the modern world." However, the world is still watching the crimes of the military regime. The common people live on the battlefields created by the military and continue to suffer tragedies in their hometowns. People cannot have enough cash. Food is scarce and prices are rising. Measures to combat COVID-19 are pending, and medical workers, volunteers, medicines and medical equipment are also scarce. Myanmar is in a humanitarian crisis and needs urgent assistance.
We are not only nationals of Myanmar, but also people of the world. If we lose this revolution, not only Myanmar, but all democracy-hopeful countries will begin to lose power by the military and military supporters. May all the international community listen to the voices of the people of Myanmar.
Q. What do you think is the first thing to do to resolve the Myanmar situation?
A. Three days after the ASEAN Summit, the military told the media that "when the situation stabilizes, we will carefully consider constructive proposals from ASEAN leaders." This means people will continue to shoot, kill and arrest people until they stop protesting and withdraw the strike. The military will never mind multiple statements and dialogues. Like everyone else, I would like to know how ASEAN responds to the blatant dismissal and crimes of the military regime. Honestly, the expectations for ASEAN are not high. However, I want ASEAN to end the repression of the military regime in Myanmar.
Q. Do you think it is most important to recognize the National Unified Government (NUG) of the democratic camp of Myanmar as the only legitimate government?
A. It may be difficult, but it is very important to recognize the NUG as a legitimately elected government.
Q. Why do you think the international community should recognize the NUG as the only legitimate government?
A. We no longer want a military coup in Myanmar. The cause of all problems in Myanmar was caused by a military coup.
Only the NUG can lead the right path to a peaceful federal democracy. However, the NUG itself is also struggling in an unsafe state. (NUG ministers are also hiding away from military surveillance.) Therefore, international support for the NUG is urgently needed.
Q. Do you think military intervention is an effective way to solve the problem?
A. Of course. The military will use violence to oppress people until the situation stabilizes. Unarmed citizens have no strength to fight the army. Because of the brutal attacks of the security forces, even unarmed citizens are trying to resist the military with a combination of traditional materials that can be used. Only effective military intervention can prevent military crime and save the people of Myanmar. This is clear.
Of course, some ethnic minority armed groups are assisting the National Unification Government to stand on the side of the people of Myanmar and attack the military in the region. In response, the Myanmar military is using fighters and combat helicopters to bomb the area. As a result, thousands of residents have fled across the border for safety. Minorities were seriously injured in air raids and lost their families and homes. As we all know, it is forbidden to use fighters and combat helicopters in civil wars. Nevertheless, Myanmar's illegal military regime is doing so. Therefore, people are urging the UN and all the international community to build a "No-Fly Zone in Myanmar."
Q. The Korean government has also been participating in military sanctions since last March. Also, many Koreans are helping Myanmarians through various channels. Do you feel the support of the Korean government and people?
A. Of course. We sincerely thank and sincerely thank the Korean government and all Koreans for the continued spiritual and material support for Myanmar. We Myanmar people are big fans of K-pop and K-drama. We Myanmar people are saying that if the Spring Revolution ends successfully, Korea will be the first foreign country to visit.
Also, one of the motivations for participating in the strike was the support of the Korean government. We firmly believed that the Korean government would support the people of Myanmar in the military coup. From the perspective of Myanmar officials who have trained abroad, the stance of the country where they have been training has a great influence on their participation in the strike. I live in Korea, a democratic country that respects human rights. Thanks to this fact, my decision to join the strike was made even more solid.
Q. Do you have any last words you want to say?
A. We will always remember the help Korea has provided in the process of democratization in Myanmar. Once again, I would like to ask the Government of the Republic of Korea to continue to support and support Myanmar in achieving justice, freedom, human rights and democracy.
Q. Thank you for responding to the interview. May the spring of Myanmar democracy come soon.
A. Thank you.
[Interview Part ①]
▶ [Report file] "No need for terrorist money"… On strike in Korea at the risk of lifeKeywords: