A Determined Gen-Z Shan Woman Journalist with a Heart of Steel [Interview]

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It has been almost a year since the military junta staged the coup by accusing the 2020 general election was a fraud. The civilians nationwide who experienced the military oppression through generations have so far shown that military government is not welcomed by protesting and demonstrating every way they can. This time unlike in the past, those who are in their teens and twenties, called generation Z, are taking the leading role in protesting and taking arms resisting against the military government without losing the momentum until today.

Journalist 1
Gen Z Journalist

During the demonstration on the streets, military junta used live ammunitions to crack down the protesters. Some were arrested, some were killed, some went missing and some corpses could not be claimed. Additionally, many of them are currently on the run because of the arrest warrant issued by the military government. 

These young generation Z are ambitious and valued their future; therefore, they are resisting every way they can even while they are on the run. Among them, a 20 years old Shan woman journalist, Ying Naunt Naunt, is one of them.

Even though she is young, she has a heart of steel who is determined to fight back using arms and pens until the military government is eradicated. SHAN has contacted the young and brave, Ying Naunt Naunt, to understand more of her commitment to revolt against the military junta.

Q: Maisoongkha! Naunt. We have learned that you have been charged with article 505 (A). What is the reason to charge with such article to a young regular woman journalist like you?

Ans: Maisoongkha! I am interested to be a journalist, so I chose to become one. When people came out onto the street protesting, I went there to cover the stories. I joined the crowd every day to get photos and videos. On that day, police and military soldiers were chasing and beating up the protestors and I were on the scenes to live the incident on our channel. That live stream got a lot of attention. Some foreign media outlets called me and requested to use the footage. So, I think that was when the military started to spot me. 

Q: How did you know that you have been charged with article 505 (A)? Was it announced on a state television?

Ans: The phone connectivity was not so good at where I live. The internet was also cut at the time. We usually do not watch television especially the state run MWD and MRTV programs. That is why I did not know it was announced on the state television. My friend called me and informed me about the announcement.

Q: Were you surprised when you heard the news?

Ans: I was not surprised at that time. The reason was that many of my friends were also charged with article 505 (A) at that time.

Q: So, the reason you have been charged with this article is solely because of the photos and footages you took when police and soldiers were beating up the demonstrators? Did you also participate in the demonstration?

Ans: I did not participate in the demonstrations. I only went there to cover the stories. I joined them every day. If the police were chasing them, I also ran with them. I was also a member of the group assisting the demonstrators. So, when the protestors got injured by the rubber bullets or tear gas, I helped them escape and took care of them. I did that every day.

Q: At that time, did you face any threat or something that you will not forget?

Ans: Yes, I have. I got injured by tear gas. So, my eyes and nose were hot, and I could not breath. I could not open my eyes while my tears were falling constantly. My friend took care of me and helped me escape. When I recovered, my whole face was red and swollen. I was worried that my face would permanently damage. That night I came back and slept at home, but I returned and joined the crowed next morning (laughing).

Q: Oh.. with such incident of running, escaping and injuring, you still got the spirit to join them? I assume you know that your life was at risk by joining the crowd, what motivated you to do so?

Ans: The young people were protesting against the military junta in order to get justice, and they were not afraid to die. I did not expose to direct risk as much as them. Additionally, the protests were happening in the city I was living in, and if I did not go then what is the point of being a journalist. So, I tried to be a responsible journalist.

Q: How much did you believe in your journalist work that you took such a risk?

Ans: I would like to let the whole world know that we Shan people are not welcoming military junta. I would like to inform people about the injustices. If there was no one reporting about the protestors being brutally arrested and beaten, it would be a great lost to our people and to those devotees. So, I want justice to be served for them.

Q: When you joined the crowed and had your press vest on, were the police and soldier  targeting you at the time? I guess it wasn’t that risky compare to nowadays?

Ans: To talk about this, I could not recall the exact date. It was around 4 P.M. I heard that there would be a motorcycle riding protest, so I went to check. There were about 100 motorcyclists. While they were circling around the city, the police and soldiers drove cars and ramped into the motorcyclists from behind. Some motorcycles and riders fell onto the ground. It happened right in front of my eyes that it gave my goosebump. The police shot rubber bullets at those falling on the ground and got injured. We tried to help as many people as we could so that they could drive away. Those we could not help got beaten, kicked, and dragged into police cars, they could not even move. I could take all the photographs of those incidents. I was riding along with somebody else, and wore a press vest. When we drove away from the area, they shot as us. Thanks to my thick vest.

Injure Robber
The police shot rubber bullets to youth at motorcycle riding protest

Q: Did the bullet hit you?

Ans: Yes, off course it did. It hit me on the right side of my abdomen. It did not penetrate through though. I felt the pain and when I touched it, I saw it was bleeding. I took care of myself by putting some medicines on it.

Q: How did you feel about your commitment and the justice you were fighting for?

Ans: I was very angry. I was wearing my press vest and did they not see it? They even shot at a journalist. Actually, all those incidents happened very quick. I was still trying to take photos of a friend being beaten while I got hit by the bullet. It was very fast. I did not think that I would be shot. When I realized that I got shot, I told my colleague who is driving me. My colleague drove the highest speed possible, and I have never ridden a motorcycle with that speed in my life. Fortunately, we could escape. That was the incident I would never forget.

Q: Did you get any lessons from that incident?

Ans: I have learned that police and soldiers were just like what my parents used to tell me. They were targeting everyone, children, young and old civilians, in order to stay in power. They were blind sighted by the power to know what is right and wrong. They were above the laws, and they would do whatever they want. One of my friends got shot more than ten rounds, and blood was all over. They even arrested that severely injured person instead of sending the person to a hospital.

Q: So, many of your friends got arrested?

Ans: Yes! Some got arrested while protesting, and some were taken away while walking on the streets. I have heard from some of them that they are in prison. I have not heard from some of them at all. I have no more contact with many of them and I don’t know whether they are in prison, alive or death. I wanted to go and ask, but even if I go as a journalist, I will be arrested. We have no freedom of expression.

Q: I have learned that you have left home for months and cannot return until now. After you have been charged with article 505 (A), did police and soldiers came to your home for you?

Ans: Yes, they came. It was on 28 April 2021 early morning. I was staying at one of my relatives house when the plain clothe police and soldiers with a ward administrator came to my house. They asked if I was home, and my family told them that I had not been home for months. They continued asking my whereabout. My family told them that I ran away with my boyfriend. So, they asked my family to contact them whenever I return home, and they left.

Q: Were you surprise that they came for you?

Ans: Yes! At first, I admit that I were quite shocked. I was not afraid that they would take me away. I was afraid that they would do harm to my family.

Q: Did you go home after that? Or you ran for your safety somewhere?

Ans: My neighborhood knew that I was staying at my relative house. So, they quietly came to inform me about them. I did not dare to go home immediately. Once it was getting dark, I went back to pack my stuffs and left home that night. My grandma and grandpa were very sad about that. They only saw me as a child. They were worried that I would get arrested whether I stay or ran away.

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PDF Generation Z

Q: You were once holding a camera and a laptop as a journalist; however, you fled into the jungle for your safety. How did you manage your life in the jungle?

Ans: I faced a lot of difficulties. It wasn’t like my home, I have never faced such difficulty in my life. I could not order something to eat whenever I am hungry like in the city. It wasn’t easy to find something to eat in the jungle. I was scared of strange insects, I am scared of the leech most. When I saw a leech sucking my blood, I screamed as if I was going to die. This kind of life maybe normal for some people, but it was the scariest days of my life.

Q: After you fled, did the police and soldiers came to your home again?

Ans: Yes, they came. Four personnel with plain clothe came and asked for me I heard.

Q: Oh! If you did not leave home, then you would have been arrested?

Ans: Definitely! I had been hearing the news of my friends being continuously arrested. One person from our village who participated in the protest also got arrested. If we analyzed their actions, we can conclude that they want to give a lesson to the youngsters not to protest again. I think it was kind of a threat to the young people.

Q: Yeah. Even though you have to flee into the jungle being a journalist, you did not get dragged down by that and continue to work as a journalist. Can you tell me the reasons?

Ans: The coup has affected every aspect of lives. When we looked at our ethnic regions, various kinds of problems occured. The lives of all civilians nationwide has been turned upside down. Human rights abuses everywhere. If we journalists are not reporting about these things, who would? Even though my personal life has been upside down, I would not let it affect my professional life being a journalist. I have committed to continue to fight for the freedom of expression and for our people human rights the best I can. I will fight until we can eradicate this military government. 

Q: You are right. But when we look at this revolution, we have seen many have been killed, arrested, missing (death or alive) in many of the regions and cities. However, it is very quiet in Shan State.

Ans: Yes, true. If we look at the reasons, (1) The cities in Shan State are small and it is easy for the military junta to chase and arrest people. Many have been arrested already. When these youngsters got arrested, there is no organization to back them up. (2) It has been difficult for them to earn for a living in times like this. (3) It has been like a straw fire, it got burned fast and die out. I assume it is because they do not have strong personal commitment. The main point is that the two Shan biggest armed groups are fighting one another, and young people have lost hope because of them. People have to flee because of the conflicts, so chances were not given to them to participate in the military junta resistance. If we cannot solve our own problems first, it is very difficult to involve in the national revolution.

Q: So, can we say that the youth in Shan State have not only faced the conflicts between the two Shan armed groups but also from the military junta? As a young new generation, what is your view on the future federal union country?

Ans: Federal democratic union nation is one of my dreams that I wanted to see it in reality. Like me, it is one of every youth’s dreams. However, think about it! Currently, it is time for all of us to fight for that dream; however, we are fighting each other instead, and so young generations are getting lost. They do not know which path to follow. Some are supporting the southern armed group while others are supporting the northern armed group – we are already separating from each other. So, the current situation in Shan State is a big disappointment. Therefore, most young people in Shan State do not want to talk about the national issue.  

Q: What is your personal opinion on the Shan armed groups fighting one another?

Ans: Even though we do not know if the leaders from both sides are discussing about the current conflicts, due to the current conflicts, Shan people are already separating into two groups including young generations and even venerable monks. The worst thing is the online criticism and accusations from both sides, it is making things worse. When other people saw we are fighting, they got disappointed in us too. This problem would not be easy to solve, and it is the disadvantage for all Shan.

Q: Since we still have time, let’s talk about PDF a little bit. We have seen in other regions that local PDF and ethnic armed groups are collaborating and fighting against the military junta. Apart from Shan groups fighting each other in Shan State, is there any PDF group in Shan State?

Ans: I am very proud of the PDF members who gave up their personal interests and devoted themselves for this revolution. I do not know exactly how many PDF members are in Shan State. However, I have seen several statements released by them. Their statements made the people feel their existence. More actions are needed from their side because civilians are supporting PDF no matter what.

Q: NUG and CRPH are accepted nationally and internationally. What about Shan youth like yourself, do you accept and believe in NUG and CRPH?

Ans: NUG and CRPH are the only hope for civilians. It would be the best if they understand the situation of the resistance on the ground, and they could provide the necessary supports. Among PDF groups, some are having more difficulties.

Q: Yes, true. In order to successfully eradicate this military junta, what do you think should be done? What is your view on that?

 Ans: When we talk about the military coup, one vital sector that we should not forget is the civil disobedience movement (CDM) civil servants. It was because of them that motivated others to continue fighting against this military junta. That is why I would like to urge everyone to support CDM civil servants. Another thing is about those who are currently behind bars, please do not forget about them, and warmly welcome them when they are returning home. That is how we can support each other during this revolution. I truly believe that we can eradicate this military government if we work together on every aspects, and so that our next and next generations will not be intoxicated and oppressed by this military junta.

This is the story of Ying Naunt Naunt who possesses a heart of steel and who is committed not to return home until this military government is overthrown, and she is now used to the life of the jungle, and she is one of the bravest souls among Shan media community.

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