In her first public comments about Myanmar’s ongoing ant-regime resistance movement since last year, the country’s ousted leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she was proud of young Burmese people and all those struggling to defend and fight for democracy.
She shared the message via her Australian former economic adviser, Sean Turnell, who was released by the regime three weeks ago after spending 650 days in prison.
Turnell relayed what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told him and shared his views about the future of Myanmar in an interview with News 10, an affiliate of US network ABC, on Tuesday.
He said he saw Daw Aung San Suu Kyi about eight weeks ago when they were sentenced. She asked Turnell to tell everyone the truth about Myanmar. The detained State Counselor said “We have been silenced, but you can tell,” according to Turnell.
“She also expressed how proud she was, especially of the young Burmese people. She was really proud of how the people were prepared to defend and fight for democracy, even though their exposure to democracy was very brief,” Turnell told News 10 ABC.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was referring to the decade prior to the coup, described at the time as a “transition” period during which Myanmar ended its previous period of miltiary rule and her National League for Democracy government was formed after democratic elections, holding power from 2015 until its ouster in the military coup of February 2021.
Since the coup, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained by the junta, which has convicted her on more than a dozen charges. Turnell was charged with violating the Official State Secrets Act.
After the military seized power, people around the country held peaceful anti-coup protests, and young “Generation Z” demonstrators took to the streets. After the peaceful protests were violently crushed, many young people picked up weapons and started to fight against the regime, joining a nationwide resistance movement that has prevented the regime from being able to take control of the country.
More than 16,000 people have been arrested since the coup, and nearly 13,000 remain in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group. More than 2,500 pro-democracy activists and civilians have been killed by the military junta over the past 20 months. Most of those arrested and killed were young people.
Apparently curious about her opinion on the country’s political situation, military coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said in December last year that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was free to comment via her lawyers, including on the parallel National Unity Government (NUG). However, she has yet to deliver any comments via that channel.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may be aware of the sacrifice made by young people, and her words suggest that she relies on their strength, said a 22-year-old pro-democracy activist form Longlone Township in Tanintharyi Region.
An 18-year-old People’s Defense Force (PDF) member from Yinmabin Township in Sagaing Region said resistance members felt very proud to be praised by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We feel depressed sometimes in revolution but her words lift us up,” he said.
A 25-year-old PDF member from Dawei Township in Tanintharyi Region said the people can see the real sacrifices made by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and understand that she cares more about saving the people and the country than herself.
“Ever since we chose the way of armed struggle, I knew that she would say these things,” he added.
Turnell also referred to the strength of young people in his interview, saying it is easy to recognize the cleverness, spirit and ability of young Burmese people.
“I think there are a lot of good, young people out in the world. I have been deeply impressed with the Burmese people outside of the country including the National Unity Government,” he said.