Htar Htet Htet, who represented Myanmar in the first Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Thailand in 2013, joined many of her compatriots and took to the streets to protest after the Feb. 1 military coup that deposed the country’s elected government. But the arbitrary arrests and brutal beatings she saw drove the 32-year-old gymnastics instructor to decide to take up arms, and she has been undergoing military training with the Karen National Defense Organization and the United Defense Force since April. Khin Khin Ei of RFA’s Myanmar Service interviewed Htar Htet Htet by telephone in an undisclosed location.
RFA: Can you first tell us why you decided to go for military training in the jungle?
Htar Htet Htet: I came here simply because I could not accept the military dictatorship. I took part in the peaceful protest marches in February and later saw the brutal crackdown by the military and police against the peaceful protesters. I saw men, women and children violently beaten up, arrested and some even killed in the process. Some people were lawlessly taken away from their houses at night time and some people were returned dead in the morning. Many people are still under arrest and some have died in captivity. We have no other options apart from taking up arms against them. The main goal is to get rid of the military dictatorship.
RFA: When did you arrive in this place?
Htar Htet Htet: I got here in early April. I'm trying to learn as much as possible and I am giving my best in whatever role I can play.
RFA: How do you find life in this new place?
Htar Htet Htet: It is an invaluable experience to learn about the sincere lives of the local ethnic people based on love and loyalty. I am still trying hard to overcome the tough part of physical training.
RFA: What were your experiences during the protests?
Htar Htet Htet: I had actively participated in the protests for many days and in many ways. And for that, I had lived in fear for days wondering when I would get arrested or face torture.
RFA: What do you think about your future?
Htar Htet Htet: I hope to find justice for the people and strive to get back democracy and a government elected by the people.
RFA: What message would you like to send to others opposing the military?
Htar Htet Htet: I would like to ask everyone who is fighting against the military dictatorship to relentlessly take up any role they can till the very end. I have full respect for all these people. Please do not forget the common enemy and do not let anything deter you until you reach your goal. Please do not recognize this regime which has robbed state power, I would like to request those overseas to give full support to the National Unity Government.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.