Myanmar’s Grieving Mothers Pray for Revolution’s Success

By Yuzana 8 March 2023

It has been almost two years since Daw San San Aye, 48, last saw her four sons. All four were arrested in April 2021 by the military regime and subsequently sentenced to death for a murder they deny committing.

Daw San San Aye’s four sons: Khaing Myae, Aung Myo Lin, Nine Nine and Soe Pyae Aung, were charged with killing a man in Yangon’s South Dagon Township on March 29, 2021, along with 14 other people. The junta said the corpse was subsequently burned.

The murder occurred less than two months after the Myanmar military’s coup, and at a time when daily protests against the putsch were being violently suppressed by the junta. On the day of the murder, at least 20 anti-coup demonstrators died at the hands of the regime.

The four sons of Daw San San Aye were sentenced to death by a military court a month after being arrested. They are currently being held in separate jails: Kyaikmaraw Prison in Mon State, Taungoo Prison in Bago Region, Myingyan Prison in Mandalay Region and Obo Prison in Mandalay.

Since her sons were detained, Daw San San Aye has been unable to see them and can only send them food supplies. Along with her daughter and eldest son, she saves money every month from her job as a food seller so that she can send them each a food parcel every three months. And since the July 2022 executions of four anti-coup activists, including Ko Jimmy and former National League for Democracy lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, she worries about them endlessly.

“I couldn’t eat or sleep after I heard that the four activists had been executed,” Daw San San Aye told The Irrawaddy.

A total of 144 people have been sentenced to death by the regime as of March 1, and their families live in a constant state of anxiety that the executions will be carried out.

“My sons might have been involved in an anti-coup protest but they didn’t commit the crime they are accused of. They were in my house when the murder happened,” said Daw San San Aye.

She is surely tragically unique in having four sons on death row.

“I hope my children will return to me as soon as possible. I pray every day,” she told The Irrawaddy.

Since the military takeover an ever-increasing number of mothers nationwide are grieving for their children who have been killed, imprisoned or who have simply disappeared after being detained

The mother who lost two daughters

Maw Ni Ka, 38, has frequently felt sick since her two daughters were killed by regime artillery fire in September 2022, while they were sheltering in the Mway Taw monastery in Moebye Town on the border of Kayah and Shan states.

Her youngest daughter Lucia was just seven when she was killed alongside her 11-year-old sister An Kaw Nyat. The sisters died in the early morning of September 16.

We were advised that it would be safe if we sheltered in the monastery. We thought the military might not shell the monastery,” Maw Ni Ka told the The Irrawaddy.

However, junta artillery strikes hit the monastery, where some 300 civilians were taking refuge. Five of them died, including Maw Ni Ka’s daughters, and almost a dozen were injured.

Over 3,000 people have died at the hands of the military regime since the coup. Civilians in resistance strongholds like Kayah State are suffering indiscriminate air and artillery strikes. In the last two years, at least 130 displaced people in Kayah State have been killed by the junta, according to the Progressive Karenni People Force.

The death of Lucia and An Kaw Nyat has been a huge source of grief for their family. Her mother said they were clever girls and she can’t get over their deaths.

“I feel so much. I cry every day,” Maw Ni Ka said in a low voice.

Mothers of fallen PDF fighters

Daw Khin Myo Myint, a 43-year-old mother of four children, bursts into tears whenever she talks about the death of her eldest son nine months ago. Hein Phyo Oo was a member of the Black Peacock Guerrilla Force resistance group, which operates in Sagaing Region.

Before the coup, 19-year-old Hein Phyo Oo sold vegetables in Magwe Region’s Myaing Township alongside his father. But a year after the coup he joined the resistance in order to topple the military dictatorship, despite his mother’s fears that her only son was risking his life.

“I said to him ‘Son, I have only one son among my four children, don’t break my heart’. He answered by telling me that he had a lot of things to do for the revolution,” recalled Daw Khin Myo Myint.

As an elder son, Hein Phyo Oo helped his parents and loved his younger sisters. Although he behaved like a kid with his mother, he was very enthusiastic to join every single mission to fight the junta forces, according to his mother.

He was killed on May 29, 2022 by regime artillery fire after his resistance group had launched a landmine attack on the Pale-Gangaw Road. He had only returned from a training camp near the Myanmar-India border a week before.

Daw Khin Myo Myint got the chance to see her son before he died. Hein Phyo Oo held his mother’s hand and called out “Mother” three times before dying.

“Parents have to forgive children because they are very enthusiastic for the revolution,” Daw Khin Myo Myint told The Irrawaddy through her tears.

Now, she tries to do her part for the revolution because she knows that is what her son would have wanted.

“I am determined to do whatever it takes to end what my son died for. So I always cook for the members of my son’s resistance group when they come to us,” she said.

Many mothers of dead resistance fighters are determined to support the revolution their sons died for.

Daw Khin Moe, 56, lost her son, Than Htet Aung, on January 23, 2023. He was a member of Monywa The Boys resistance group and died after being arrested and tortured by pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia in his village in Sagaing’s Monywa Township. The 24-year-old never thought about not fighting for the revolution, despite suffering from colon cancer.

Than Htet Aung was urged to rest by his mother and resistance group leader because of the cancer, but he always refused to do so. Even when he was at home recovering from surgery, he collected rations to send to his group, said his mother.

In the early hours of January 23, Than Htet Aung and his cousin Htet Kaung Wai were arrested by the Pyu Saw Htee while they were sleeping in the village monastery. The two were interrogated and tortured in the monastery for an hour, before being taken to the outskirts of the village. Their mutilated bodies were discovered the next day.

“He told me that even if he was arrested, he wouldn’t tell them [junta forces] about his camp. He said he will be involved in the revolution until the end and he wanted me to welcome him with flowers if he came back,” said Daw Khin Moe, her voice cracking with emotion. Now she tries to fulfil his wishes by supporting the revolution.

The wishes of mothers

All the mothers The Irrawaddy spoke to want the revolution to succeed and democracy to be restored to Myanmar. “My son died young, but I am proud of his efforts,” Daw Khin Moe told The Irrawaddy.

She urged the public to support the revolution so that it succeeds as soon as possible.

Maw Ni Ka also wants the revolution to be a success, so that no more civilians like her daughters die at the hands of the regime.

“I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I do,” she said.