PLEASE Just CARE!!!

Another day, another time, I would have been all over the story of what has been happening in Myanmar (aka Burma) over the past several months (decades).  It is important.  It is a matter of human lives.  Instead, I have focused on the political corruption, the racism, the horrific gun problem, and other issues that hit more closely to home.  I learned some time ago that many people in this country are not particularly interested in what happens in North Korea, Yemen, the Ukraine, or Myanmar, for we have our own burdens to bear, our own fights to fight.  But, what has happened in Myanmar, Yemen and other places over the past years is … must be … important to us all, for whether you like it or not, we all share the same planet and its limited resources, and we are all part of the same race — the human race.  What happens to one of us, happens also to the rest.

The story you are about to read is not pretty, it will not lift your spirits, but … you cannot read this and tell me, at the end, that you do not care.  Please, my friends, even if you are powerless to change it … care … at least, just CARE, I beg you … please care.  😭


This is Aye Myat Thu at age 10.

Aye Myat is dead now, killed by an assassin’s bullet …



She Just Fell Down. And She Died.

By Hannah Beech

April 4, 2021

ဤဆောင်းပါးကို မြန်မာဘာသာဖြင့် ဖတ်ပါ။

In the swelter of the hot season, U Soe Oo cracked open the coconut with practiced blows of his machete. Small hands reached out for the first slice, cool and slippery.

His daughter — 10 years old, with dreams of being a makeup artist or a nurse or maybe even a princess with long golden hair like the one in “Maleficent,” which she had watched a zillion times, no joke — ran down a path with her sweet prize.

Just as she reached the trees that marked the perimeter of their property, the girl seemed to stumble, landing flat on her stomach, her father recalled. The piece of coconut slipped from her grasp, falling onto the reddish earth of Mawlamyine, a port town perched on a slender archipelago in southeastern Myanmar.

Mr. Soe Oo put his machete down and ran to tell her it was OK, that she could have another chunk of coconut. He scooped her up, limp in his arms, but it still didn’t register where all the blood was coming from, why she wasn’t saying anything at all.

The bullet had hit the left temple of his daughter, Aye Myat Thu, at about 5:30 in the soft glow of the afternoon of March 27. By the time darkness fell less than an hour later, she was dead.

Since staging a Feb. 1 coup and jailing the nation’s civilian leaders, the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, has murdered, assaulted and arrested with impunity. More than 550 people have been killed on the streets and in their homes by soldiers or police officers, according to a monitoring group.

At least 40 of the dead were children under 18, according to a tally compiled by The New York Times that relies on medical testimony, funeral details and family accounts. A few of the minors were killed for participating in the protests. Many others were bystanders who were seemingly executed, with a single gunshot to the head.

Often the children were killed as they went about their lives, playing or huddling with their families, in cities and towns that have descended into terror. Some had done nothing more threatening in their final moments than seek the comfort of a father’s lap, serve tea, fetch water or run down a lane with a piece of coconut.

“I have no power of revenge against the soldiers who killed my daughter,” said Daw Toe Toe Lwin, Aye Myat Thu’s mother. “All I can do is hope their turn comes soon.”

The slaughter of children has eclipsed the violence of previous military crackdowns, horrifying a nation accustomed to the Tatmadaw’s impulse to use maximum force against peaceful civilians. And it has hardened the resolve of a mass protest and civil disobedience movement that shows little sign of folding in the face of army snipers and grenade launchers.

This past week, a United Nations special envoy for Myanmar warned the Security Council that “a blood bath is imminent” and that “the whole country is on the verge of spiraling into a failed state.”

In Mawlamyine — known for its Buddhist pagodas and fleeting mentions, by its old name of Moulmein, in a Rudyard Kipling poem and a George Orwell essay — the protests began a week after the coup. They have coalesced almost daily since, with protesters occasionally showing up on boats in the harbor or on fleets of motorcycles.

Members of Aye Myat Thu’s family had not been politically active. Four years ago, when others in Mawlamyine protested the naming of a bridge after a general from another state, they kept quiet. A decade before that, when monks led protests against the military junta, they also stayed home. The same was true in 1988, when Myanmar erupted in pro-democracy dissent, only for the military to gun down thousands of people nationwide.

This time was different. Mr. Soe Oo is a furniture polisher. His two oldest daughters — Aye Myat Thu was the fourth of five — are a teacher and a beauty salon owner. There was a sense of upward mobility in a country once trapped by an economically disastrous mix of socialism and numerology, which gave preferential treatment to a former junta chief’s favorite digit. (At one point, when currency notes in multiples of nine replaced conventional ones, some of Myanmar’s savings evaporated.)

Today, the family is neither rich nor poor. But they are clear beneficiaries of the political and economic reforms that began a decade ago, which allowed ordinary citizens to buy cellphones, join Facebook and set up private savings accounts safe from government hands.

The family acquired some of the trappings of middle-class success, including a sound system and a television. Aye Myat Thu used her allowance to buy a bicycle with a blue basket. She discovered TikTok, along with the pleasures of a princess filter with tiaras and pink hearts. She and her sisters would dance with a frenetic jumble of limbs, before erupting in laughs so consuming that they had to stop the video.

For the first time, perhaps, the family had something to lose. Aye Myat Thu’s aunt marched in the anti-coup protests for “the revolution.”

Her niece was full of questions.

“She asked me once what people are doing out on the street, because she saw on Facebook that people are protesting and dying,” said her aunt, Daw Kyu Kyu Lwin. “I explained to her about the coup and why we were protesting. She said nothing but listened as I explained. She was thinking.”

On March 20, with the death toll mounting, some residents of Mawlamyine staged a set of creative rallies, meant to keep them safe. Instead of protesting in person, they lined up rows of stuffed animals, posting photos of them on social media. There were Winnie the Poohs and Piglets, the Japanese robot cat Doraemon and a tiny turtle holding a sign that read, “We want democracy.”

A week later, the mercury rose in Mawlamyine. Tarmac roads shimmered. A hot wind wafted from the Andaman Sea. It was Armed Forces Day in Myanmar, and Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief and coup instigator, presided over a display of Tatmadaw weaponry in the capital, Naypyidaw.

Across the country that day, the security forces shot dead at least 114 people, among them seven children. In Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, a baby girl was half-blinded when a rubber bullet struck her eye.

In Mawlamyine this time, the protesters did not rely on stuffed toys as stand-ins. About 300 people gathered in the unrelenting sun, behind sandbag barricades. Some wore plastic helmets as they faced off with about 100 members of the security forces. The bullets started out as rubber and by afternoon had hardened to live fire. Protesters scattered, but two were killed.

No one quite knew why the soldiers wandered into Aye Myat Thu’s neighborhood of neat wooden houses, each painted a cheerful hue, sprays of bougainvillea adding more splashes of color.

Mr. Soe Oo took a coconut from the family palm tree and hacked at it carefully, lest the sweet water spill out. Sounds like the pop of firecrackers echoed in the hazy heat.

Aye Myat Thu grabbed her slice of coconut. The popping noises drew her down the path from her house. Past the trees, a camouflaged presence stalked, according to other neighborhood residents. No one in the family saw him.

The hole from the bullet was so small that Mr. Soe Oo said he couldn’t understand how it had extinguished the life of his daughter, another random victim of a trigger-happy military.

“She just fell down,” he said. “And she died.”

The funeral was the next day. Buddhist monks chanted, and mourners gathered around the coffin, raising their hands in the three-fingered salute from “The Hunger Games” that has become the protesters’ symbol of defiance. Garlands of jasmine framed the girl’s face, the bullet still lodged somewhere in her skull.

“I want to tear off the soldier’s skin as revenge,” said U Thein Nyunt, her uncle. “She was just an innocent child with a kind heart. She was our angel.”

Around her body, the family placed some of Aye Myat Thu’s favorite belongings: a set of crayons, a few dolls and a purple rabbit, some Fair and Lovely cream, a Monopoly board and a drawing of Hello Kitty she had sketched two days before she was killed. On the paper, next to the cartoon cat, Aye Myat Thu had written out her name in careful English letters.

“I feel empty,” said Ms. Toe Toe Lwin, her mother.

Right after the funeral, Aye Myat Thu was cremated, the flames burning her treasures with her. In other parts of the country, soldiers have stolen corpses of those they killed, perhaps to conceal the evidence of their brutality. In one case, they exhumed a child’s grave.

The family didn’t want the same for their little girl.

41 thoughts on “PLEASE Just CARE!!!

  1. Such a powerful article, Jill, thank you for sharing it. It is heartbreaking to know that the military can shot at will. However, it is also inspiring to know that people are not being cowed. How brave are those protesters, who still turn up, knowing what they are facing? I also think that the current crackdown really shouldn’t be a surprise to us, given the genocide the government perpetrated on the Rohingya.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Anne. It is indeed a heartbreaking, tragic situation that should never have gone this far. Like you, I see the people as heroes, bravely facing a corrupt military. No, it isn’t a surprised I guess, for we have seen this same thing before … I just always keep hoping that humans will learn to be better. Sigh.

      Like

  2. 😔😔😔❤️Meanwhile people in the US throw temper tantrums in stores for having to be respectful of others by wearing a mask, often coughing and spitting on them in hatred. Humans need to beware….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, thanks for posting this sad story. It is all so needless. It is all so shameful. When so-called leaders act on ego for power, people just get in the way and die, even the littlest of us. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done Jill for posting this.
    People are being slaughtered out there, the BBC keeps a running news feed, but the ‘fashionable’ protest movements do not say much.
    The geo-political tragedy is that as long as the big neighbours of China and India are content to give international shrugs, the Military in Myanmar will just do as it damn well please, just as it has for decades.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Roger. It seems that people aren’t interested unless something is in their own proverbial back yard, unless it directly impacts them. I’ve even hear people say, “Why should I care … that’s thousands of miles away?” And to a degree, we’re all guilty of it, but sometimes you just have to use your voice to say, This IS WRONG! Sigh. I don’t see an end anytime soon to the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, but we have to at least care. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here’s the thing Jill.
        Nothing that goes on in this world, does not eventually catch up with another part of the world in one way or another.
        “Why should I care … that’s thousands of miles away?”….. Well so is the Middle East and then on the 9th September 2001 it ceased to be ‘thousands of miles away’.

        The other argument is one day something horrendous will come knocking at your door and in your grief you will wish at least folk care.

        You can’t isolate yourself from The World, it doesn’t work like that.

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        • You are always so wise, dear Roger. And that is what so many fail to understand, that we are not an island, but rather a nation connected to every other nation in many ways that may not seem apparent, but that doesn’t make them less real.

          Your example of 9/11 is perfect … yes, we kept shoving our beliefs and values onto the people in the Middle East, and finally one day someone got tired of it, decided to teach us a lesson.

          With the advent of air travel and the internet, we all gave up the ability to be isolationist, to think that we needn’t care what happens elsewhere in the world, for today we are all connected. This past weekend, there was a major ‘incident’ at an Iran nuclear facility. Said incident was almost certainly perpetuated by Israel. Think there aren’t going to be international consequences? Oh hell yeah, there will be. Sigh.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Aww thanks Jill for the opening lines.
            I’ve just finished listening to an audio book ‘1172 BC: The Year Civilisation Collapsed’ by Eric H Cline.
            This concerns the question of the sudden demise of the all of the Bronze Age civilisations flourishing around the Aegean and Middle East. A common idea was that a bunch of folk called the Sea People popped up from somewhere and began raiding, pillaging and generally destroying.
            Cline argues for a more complex mix of events: Economic, social, war, climate change (Oh yeah. Oh Yeah- Deniers Climate Happens) or as he summarises it as “multiple interconnected failures,”. He suggests the societies were unable to cope with this. And then compares those events with parallels of today.
            Cause and effect? You can find it by the cart load. There’s a load of misconceptions of WWI like the wacko idea that the arms manufactures and capitalists started it to make bigger profits or the common one that it was all the fault of the Empires….Actually the empires had a system to defuse the situations, problem was since the rise of nations there were a whole clutch of ….wait for it Nationalist groups (Yep you got it… MAGA) screaming their heads off and generally making things either difficult or in some cases unworkable. Look for a cause for WWI….look to ordinary people with heads stuffed with legends, conspiracies and propaganda. The system was not geared for that, and it fell apart.
            No group ever has clean hands.
            The incident you mentioned Iran won’t go head to head with Israel but the Revolutionary Guard (state within a state) has enough resources to get its clients in other nations to ratchet up terrorist and para-military activity as a response, and so it goes on.
            AAAnnnnd finally:
            Those folk who say its thousands of miles away…. Those cheap clothes, phones, computers etc an’t being manufactured in places like Hingledongton in the Great State of……

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  5. Pingback: PLEASE Just CARE!!! – Coalition of the Brave

    • I agree, however the media plays to their audience, being for-profit, and it seems that the people in this world simply don’t much care about things that don’t directly affect them. Or rather, that they THINK don’t directly affect them. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. One individual story has more impact, we can all relate to that. We look back to recent history and wonder why no one did anything and now we all are standing by while Syria and Yemen are destroyed and now Myanmar. There’s no simple answer – interfere and start another Vietnam or Afghanistan?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re quite right that a single, human-interest story gets the attention of many more than a broad story covering what is happening. There is no simple answer, but I think it’s important for us all to see the atrocities, the human rights violations, to understand, and to care. I don’t have a solution and meanwhile … how many more must die before somehow this is stopped? Sigh.

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  7. We hear about this every day in Canada. But no one is sending troops to defend the defenseless. I do not understand. Is it because the rebels are the military? We’d rather fight disorganized rebels than organized soldiers? I don’t know the answer, but if the United Nations can send observers, they can damned well send well-armed combatants to force a peace on a military dictatorship that is more interested in killing civilians than it is on providing a safe place for those they want to govern.
    Talk about embarrassing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s in the news here every day, but I think few people actually pay any attention, for they are so wrapped up in their own lives. There are limits to what the UN can do within any country. I don’t know what the answer is, but one must be found, and soon!

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  8. There is great evil in this world. Evil that starts from those who don’t mind who gets gunned down in order to pass a message and evil by those who are prepared to do the killing as the instrument of those in charge.There is no place in the world for a leader who treats his people like thisbe they civilians, reporters or opposition political leaders. There is no place in this world for Military Officers to claim they were only obeying orders..The military is not there to protect the president but to protect the country as a whole from invasion and protect the people. In Myanmar the people will exact their revenge once a Democratic Government is reinstated if the Military do not turn away from these unlawful practices they are performing for the Military Junta.There can be no forgiveness for this.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right that there is great evil in the world, and I sometimes think some of the greatest evil comes from those who are capable of turning a blind eye to things like this, who are simply so wrapped up in their own little lives that they don’t care. They look at the headlines, shrug their shoulders, and claim that it’s really nothing to do with them. No, there will be no forgiveness for this and someday, the people will have their revenge … if they live long enough. Sigh.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I wonder how many in the US could even point to Myanmar on a map, let alone know what is going on there. Until the demise of Prince Philip replaced all other news here we were getting regular updates on the situation. It is a tragedy that gets worse every day, but it needs stories like this to be widely told to bring home the reality behind the frightening numbers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In truth, I could not readily point to it on a map without studying the map first, but I have stayed on top of what is happening there, and as you say, it grows worse by the day. If it gets any coverage here, it’s buried ‘below the fold’ and overshadowed by the current political situation here. It sometimes seems that people have little or no interest in that which doesn’t directly affect them. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I only know because a friend had family there until very recently, when their employer brought them out! It’s like that here: there’s a long-standing joke about one of the newspapers running a story many years ago headed ‘fatal train crash in Italy – no Brits injured.’ (It may not have been Italy, but you get the gist!)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I get it … whenever there’s a plane crash, the first thing they report is how many ‘Americans’ were on board. And I think … who gives a damn how many Americans … they were all HUMANS! I think I somehow belong in some other universe, for I don’t seem to view things in the same way that others do.

          Liked by 1 person

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