Dr. Tayzar San, 33, is one of the military regime’s most wanted people and has been hunted by the junta for many months. But despite being in hiding, the man who led the first anti-coup demonstrations in Mandalay and who has since became a prominent revolutionary continues to carry out his mission of eliminating military dictatorship from Myanmar.
He challenges the junta leaders on social media almost daily, and has been travelling extensively to meet resistance groups and civilians on the ground.
The protest leader recently talked to The Irrawaddy about what he saw during his travels in resistance strongholds.
What did you see on your travels?
I have been travelling across the country. I travelled on foot, by bike, by water and even rode an elephant once. I have been to many places and met people from all walks of life, including ordinary civilians, People Defense Forces (PDFs), ethnic organizations, people’s authorities, education boards, health boards, lawmakers, political party leaders, businessmen and even beggars. And I have heard many things from them.
To tell you briefly what I saw on my travels is that I have greater confidence that this revolution will definitely succeed. The people will definitely win this fight. The military regime are not capable, either physically or mentally, of withstanding this revolution.
What can you tell us about the plight of ordinary people?
What I have seen is the worst social, economic, health and security situation in the country since Myanmar became independent over 70 years ago. It is said that the occupation of Myanmar [then Burma] by fascist Japan during World War II was the worst period in Myanmar’s history. In the future, people will say that Min Aung Hlaing’s dictatorship was worse than fascist Japan’s rule.
Every day, junta troops torch villages for no reason. They drop bombs on civilians for no reason and shoot anyone on sight, whether they are engaged in the revolution or not. It is an extremely brutal dictatorship. The people have nothing to lose now, so there is no other option but to throw themselves into the revolution. People have been participating in the revolution with a lot of determination. In some of the villages I visited, all the villagers are members of PDFs. The military torches houses and arrests and kills civilians in order to instill fear in villagers. But the crueler their actions, the more revolutionary the people become.
How are people surviving?
People face extreme hardship. The military regime is employing the ‘Four Cuts’ strategy that they have used for many years. They cut off supplies of food, medicine and fuel, as well as access to the internet. So people are extremely short of food, medicine and fuel. As Myanmar is an agricultural country, people can still manage to grow food to eat, but life is still very difficult for them.
The worst thing is that the currency, the Kyat, is continuously depreciating. Farmers and low-income families are facing appalling hardship due to the inflation caused by that. But they have nothing more to lose. They have lost their houses and possessions in arson attacks. They live in makeshift shelters and under trees. And they make do with what they have. They are already facing the worst situation.
They are not feeling down because of the woes they are facing. Instead they are preoccupied by the desire to fight for the revolution. As they have decided to sacrifice their lives if necessary, they are no longer feeling sad or shocked. They think more about how to end the military dictatorship in the shortest possible time.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell the international community that millions of people need humanitarian assistance now. They have no shelter, no food and medicine. I want to urge the international agencies to help them on humanitarian grounds. There are millions of people affected by the fighting in Anyar [central Myanmar], Karen State, northern Shan State and Tanintharyi Region. There are many people who are going hungry. I would like to urge the world to help them.
What are the young people doing?
Teenagers as young as 15 are participating in the revolution alongside older people, which is encouraging. Parents take their children to local PDF groups. Almost all the young people in the villages take part in the revolution one way or another. Even if they don’t personally take part in the fighting, they do their part in logistics and helping displaced people. At the same time, interim schools from kindergarten to matriculation have been opened and children attend classes. Some of those who can’t join the armed revolution are serving as volunteer teachers.
And the people who are part of the Civil Disobedience Movement are not just on strike. They are teachers or are serving in people’s authorities. Some have joined PDFs. They are working with determination to end the military dictatorship.
If people in other parts of the country have similar thoughts, our revolution won’t take long to succeed. If people want to end this ordeal as quickly as possible, it is important that all of them take part in the revolution. What I have seen is that every young person has become a full-time revolutionary.
What do PDFs and resistance groups need?
All the groups said they need weapons and ammunition. The National Unity Government (NUG) has financial constraints. I would like to urge people to make donations to fund the resistance.
What are your suggestions to revolutionary groups?
Our resistance forces were established overnight out of the necessity of the revolution. They are made up of civilians who joined the PDFs after a few months of military training. The chain of command is not systematic and there is still room for improvement. They can’t still get rid of their civilian behavior. There must be a systematic and swift chain of command from the most basic unit of a squad to platoon, company and battalion level right up to the NUG’s defense ministry.
There are PDFs at the village, township, district and regional level. There must be unity among the civilian administration officials such as the people’s authorities, township resource management boards, township health boards and education boards. This is very important. The second thing is they must follow codes of conduct and regulations. This is critical.
PDF members must follow the code of conduct of a soldier. Administrative officials must also follow rules and regulations. Their weapons must be used only to protect the people and their property. So those are the two most important suggestions for them, the chain of command and compliance with codes of conduct and rules and regulations.
How much territory do resistance forces now control?
The regime says in its newspapers that normalcy has been restored to the country. Everyone knows that the rural population makes up 70 per cent of Myanmar’s total population. There are between 100 and 200 villages in every township. Today, the revolutionary forces led by the NUG are strong enough to assert control over all rural areas. The area that I am currently in is vast, and some 80 to 90 per cent of schools have been opened by NUG-led boards in the area. On the other hand, junta-run schools have been opened in only one township. Don’t judge the situation just by looking at Yangon and Mandalay or the regime-controlled media. On the ground, the huge wave of revolution is sweeping across rural areas and gaining momentum by the day.
What do you want to tell the NUG on behalf of the people and PDFs?
All the people including me view the NUG as our government. We have pinned high hopes on it and rely heavily on it. We have trust in the NUG. We understand that the NUG is trying hard despite various challenges. We rely on it and expect more from it.
Everyone knows what the PDFs and resistance groups need. They need funds, weapons and ammunition. We expect the NUG to take practical steps to make sure that people’s authorities and so on can perform effectively.
Another thing is understanding and sympathy from the international community. Even if the international community can’t directly give the things we need, they can help displaced people in Myanmar on humanitarian grounds. I want the NUG to try to solicit assistance from the international community for displaced people. Millions of people are going hungry now in our country. They need shelter and medicine. On behalf of the Myanmar people, I would like to urge the NUG to try and get them international assistance.
What is the key to the success of the revolution?
As our revolution is centered on armed resistance, people would say heavy weapons and ammunition are most needed. That is not wrong. But, personally, people are the most important part of the revolution. This is a revolution of the people. Frankly, this revolution belongs to neither the NUG nor the National League for Democracy (NLD). Nor does it belong to the PDFs. This is a revolution of the people for the people.
People have risen up in revolt because they can’t accept the injustice that comes from being ruled by a gun and having their votes cancelled. This is not a personal fight and it is not a fight between two parties: between the red [the NLD] and the green [the Myanmar military]. That must be understood clearly. The Anyar Region is fighting the military fiercely in this Spring Revolution. The Bamar people themselves are fighting fiercely against the regime, even though the Myanmar military is traditionally dominated by the Bamar.
The Myanmar military can be compared to a tree that has lost its roots. No matter how large it has grown, the tree will not survive for long once it has lost its roots. It will definitely fall down. If you want to see the tree fall down quickly, then join others to push it down. The more people who join to push the tree, the quicker it will fall down. Do whatever you can. Those with swords, cut the tree with swords. Those with axes, cut with axes. Anyone with arms, help push it down. The dictatorship will definitely collapse. As the people are the key, I would like to urge all the people to continue to participate in the revolution.