Interview: ‘These Kids Were Pushed Into the Struggle by the Feb. 1 Coup’

Tin Zaw describes losing his formerly apolitical son, who died fleeing a raid on anti-junta activists in Yangon.
2021.08.11
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Interview: ‘These Kids Were Pushed Into the Struggle by the Feb. 1 Coup’ Ye Min Oo, one of two Myanmar pro-democracy activists who died on Aug. 10, 2021, when they and three colleagues jumped from a building in Yangon to avoid capture by junta authorities, in photo posted on his Facebook account on Feb. 7, 2021.
Ye Min Oo

Tin Zaw’s son Ye Min Oo is one of two Myanmar pro-democracy activists who died late on Tuesday when they and three colleagues jumped from a building in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, to avoid capture by junta authorities. In an exclusive interview with Nayrein Kyaw of RFA’s Myanmar Service on Wednesday, he describes how the Feb. 1 military coup that deposed the country’s elected government had inspired his previously apolitical son to join the anti-junta movement, and shares his reaction to the loss of Ye Min Oo. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

RFA: How did you hear about the incident?

Tin Zaw: Midday today, there were explosions in downtown Yangon—I was concerned about my son. After the February coup, he became actively involved in protests. I did not bar this as a parent, but warned him to be cautious and mindful. When they blocked all the streets and were searching for activists downtown, I was worried about him and called his number, but he did not answer. At nightfall, one of his friends informed me that he had died by jumping from an apartment during a raid. I was like, it’s all gone—I could no longer help my son anymore. Later I got images of my son and his friends jumping from the rooftop, and I knew that my son died from the jump.

RFA: Was your son Ye Min Oo a protester downtown, or was he involved in other activities?

Tin Zaw: He said he joined a scouting unit that gathers information on pro-military informants and military targets. He also told me he was not (an underground activist who was involved in political activities deemed illegal by the military junta), but was related to both. I asked him once whether he had contact with the National Unity Government, and he replied he did not. He even said that he did not know the Red (National League for Democracy) or Green (Union Solidarity and Development Party). He just knew to revolt against the dictatorship.   

RFA: What is a scout and what was the nature of his scouting activities?

Tin Zaw: It was gathering information about pro-military informers and how they were actively working and where. They do a kind of intelligence gathering on the targets, working the whole day on the streets. He had no longer been sleeping at home for quite a long time. Once he was arrested near Maung Aye Café at Yegyaw junction in Pazundaung, detained during a random security check of all passers-by. He was arrested and detained after his mobile phone was checked. I went there and helped him get out from the arrest. Since then he no longer slept at home. He lived with his friends and colleagues. He visited home sometime, in February, days after the coup.

RFA: The initial information we received today was that five activists jumped from the roof top and died, including your son. What did you hear about today’s incident? Did you know the other activists?

Tin Zaw: I heard there were a husband and wife with the three others, including my son. Immediate after the fall, my son was dying, not dead. Then police officers beat them up, and my son died after the beating. I got that information from witnesses and residents.

RFA: Please tell us a little bit about your son, Ye Min Oo?

Tin Zaw: My son was born in the military junta era in 1994, grew up during the (2011-16) Thein Sein government, and the (2016-2021) Aung San Suu Kyi government. He never said anything about politics in his entire life. But he became active in politics only after the February coup and got involved in activities, up until his death now. There was no support behind my son or any youth in this movement. There was no organized command structure behind these groups of youths from anyone. What I mean here is: They were independent from the National Unity Government, the People’s Defense Force, or the armed training in liberated areas that have been popular online these days. They were not part of those. He did not flee to the border, did not attend the training, and was not a People’s Defense Force member. He joined the movement based on his own beliefs, and stood and fought, and has now fallen in the fight. They were pure and innocent youths. These kids were pushed into the struggle by the Feb. 1 coup. I am very proud of my son.

Translated by Kyaw Min Htun.

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