May is a civil servant who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement after the military staged the coup in February 2021. She joined a bag-making business and became a tailor to support herself. She fled to Mae Sot after the junta's security forces seized the shop she worked in and arrested her colleagues. She currently works for a bag-making business started by activists and CDM police officers in Mae Sot, and the group is called CDM Unity. May continues to support the CDM community in Myanmar with the income generated from making bags. CDM Unity products are available for purchase on their Facebook page.
On February 1st, 2021, the military junta staged a violent coup and forcibly took over power...
Six days after the military staged the coup, U Min Ko Naing and U Win Htein went on social media and urged civil servants to oppose the coup by refusing to show up for work. They talked about how civil servants could halt all governing mechanisms by participating in peaceful protests, and February 8th became the day civil servants across the nation stopped showing up at work.
When the news began circulating among the civil servants, some commented, “Our years of service would go to waste if we quit. There is no way we can join the Civil Disobedience Movement. Who will provide for us when we no longer have our jobs? We have families to take care of.” Some of my colleagues tried to convince me not to make hasty decisions after reading some posts on social media. We also could not discuss the prospect of joining CDM at work since we had a few retired majors and lieutenants working in administrative positions at the office.
I could not sleep whenever I thought about how I was going to support my family if I no longer have my job. While at the same time, I can feel my blood boil when I think about the political leaders who are unlawfully detained by the junta. I care about my country more than my job, and I do not want to see it sink to the bottom. I especially do not want Amay Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whom we all love and admire, to be arrested again. She already sacrificed herself and spent many years behind bars for her people and country.
Whenever I had these thoughts, I felt determined to do whatever I could to help with the revolution. It does not matter how trivial my contribution may be. It was my chance to be a part of it, and the opportunity was in my hands. I finally made up my mind and informed my parents that I decided to join CDM. I announced my decision on Facebook, I mentioned my position and my department, and I invited my colleagues to join me. I also sent a letter to the director of the department explaining my decision.
I felt relieved after making the decision, and I felt proud of myself when my friends congratulated me. I thought to myself that I could finally carry out my duty as a civil servant.
On February 15th, I proudly wore my uniform, carried the protest signs, and joined a demonstration with my colleagues in front of our office. During the demonstration, we spotted some of our colleagues, dressed in plain clothes, attempting to get into the office without anyone noticing. They used to be like my second family, we used to sit and have meals together, but all of them looked like strangers to me at that moment.
We choked with emotion as we shouted, “Do not go to work, break free!” on the side of the road. We also witnessed the color of our logo and office signboard suddenly change from red to blue, and we were infuriated. We felt we had been bullied around, and we had no say in what was going on. The people, however, saw us protesting and came out to support us. They gave us water, snacks, and they cheered for us until the deafening sound of applause filled the street. Tears began to run down my face, and I used them to give me the strength I needed to become a civil servant that stands in solidarity with the people. The fascist terrorists started killing peaceful protesters soon after, and we witnessed similar incidents in our neighborhood.
We saw the junta's security forces came into our street and fired their weapons, arrested the residents, and later tortured them. I am a CDM civil servant, and I was afraid for my life, so I decided to move. I also avoided the soldiers when they came into my street during the day. I had to move from place to place, and it was especially difficult for a mother with a toddler like me. I had to stop myself from breaking down and bursting into tears many times.
My daughter occasionally asked me if the soldiers were coming to arrest me when she saw military trucks. I would catch a glimpse of her looking worried, so I would go ahead and console her.
“What is the color of your father’s uniform?”
“It’s green, mom.”
“Is it the same color as the uniform those soldiers are wearing?”
“Yes. It’s the same, mom.” Her eyes would sparkle as she said.
“Then you don’t need to be afraid because your father is just like them.” She would go back to being her usual self and continue playing happily, and I could let out a sigh of relief only then.
You are correct in case you might be wondering. My ex-husband is someone from the military who did not join CDM. If I ever get a chance one day, I would like to take a photo of my daughter when she is scared, and I would like to show it to people like him. I want to let them know how much she is hurt and distressed because of what they are doing.
As time went by, it became more and more difficult for CDM civil servants to support themselves. My friends and I got an idea to start a small business to help CDM civil servants
who are struggling to make ends meet, and I took the initiative to lead the group. One of my ex-colleagues had a bag-making business during that time, and she offered to help us. She gave us job opportunities, and she supported us with everything we needed. We took care of each other, and we made sure no one in our group abandoned the movement and went back to their previous jobs. We carried on with unbreakable determination to make sure CDM remained strong, and we did not look back on our decision.
On March 14th, 2022, the junta's security forces seized our shop and detained two of my colleagues who were CDM civil servants. They also detained eight young men and took everyone to the interrogation center. As someone who is part of the group, I was in shock, and I was in fear for my life. I decided to leave my home and go into hiding.
My daughter looked at me with her eyes full of tears when she saw me packing in a hurry. I pretended not to notice she was standing there. I did not want my daughter to see me like this if I was going to be arrested. More importantly, I need to stay alive for her. I left my daughter that night and fled to a neighboring country with the help of a friend.
Although I faced many difficulties in my life, this was by far the worst experience I have had. I contacted my mother and informed her of my situation when I got somewhere safe, and she wept as we talked on the phone. I consoled and reassured her that I would be gone for a while. While it is true that I could only go back home after we win the revolution, my situation is nothing compared to those who are imprisoned or do not have a home to go back to. That being said, I have already spent countless days crying my eyes out after thinking about home.
I arrived in Mae Sot with my friend, who was the owner of the bag-making business that supported us, and we started a group called CDM Unity. We launched a bag-making business together with activists and police officers who joined CDM. It was surreal for me to work with the police officers since I used to be afraid of them. However, they are police officers who made the conscious decision to stand in solidarity with the people, and I am very proud of them for what they did. Everyone in the group is now like my second family, and we work well together.
We are trying our best during these uncertain times.
We have our own traumas, we are dealing with them in our own ways, and despite these challenges, we are trying our best to stay united and face everything that lies ahead of us together.
Nowadays, we are able to provide more support to CDM civil servants still living in Myanmar. We receive letters from them, and I would like to do my best to help them in anyway I can. Myanmar communities everywhere are also doing their best to work together and pull Myanmar out of the crisis, and we only have ourselves to count on during these trying times. I would like to end this essay by expressing my sincere appreciation to those who have been supporting us mentally, physically, and financially throughout the revolution.
We will win the revolution.