Moments later, we heard music and chanting from the street. A procession of trucks flying the Myanmar flag rolled down the street, carrying young men dressed in military camouflage and carrying traditional swords. They chanted slogans supporting the military and General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander of the armed forces, now the ultimate authority.
People on balconies watched in silence and took photos. The trucks, accompanied by cars full of Buddhist monks, drove on to the Yangon City Hall to join a rally supporting the coup. My aunt, who lived through the 1988 crackdown and the coup in 1990, started cracking jokes. “Now we are North Korea,” she said with a giggle. “It is just like it was before. Such fun.”
We ate lunch around noon. Some of us got our mobile phone service back. Verified N.L.D. pages on Facebook started sending messages telling people to protest, despite the page administrators’ being under arrest. As I listened to my family talk, I felt a distinct sense of being transported back to the old, isolated Myanmar, when foreign travel was almost impossible and communication with the outside world was expensive and illegal.
“There was a coup in 1990, and now it is happening again,” my uncle, who is in his mid-60s and is living through his third coup, remarked. “We have been free for 10 years,” he added. “I don’t know how to live like that anymore.”
We sat around and talked about what Myanmar was bound to lose. We were just about to start railway projects with Japanese support that would update the aging Yangon to Mandalay line. We worried about the return of economic sanctions. We talked about our garment exports to the European Union. We wondered whether the coup would affect international cooperation on Covid vaccines.
The day passed in a blur of anxious conversations. We eventually collapsed into an uneasy sleep. The next day, the military’s supporters held a large rally at People’s Park, in the shadow of the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the holiest sites in the country. Students, medical workers, and lawyers began organizing a resistance movement online.
We are traumatized and exhausted, but by the time the 8 p.m. curfew came into effect on Tuesday, people in my neighborhood gathered on our balconies and started banging pots and pans, announcing that we won’t give up without a fight.
Aye Min Thant is a journalist from Yangon, Myanmar. She was part of the team of Reuters journalists who won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.
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