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  • Writer's pictureAshizia Dean

Families disown activist children who are against Myanmar's military junta

Numerous times over the past three months, an estimation of six or seven households in Myanmar have placed advertisements in the country's state-owned publications - burning bridges with sons, daughters, and relatives who have openly declared their opposition to the governing military junta.

Myanmar's military junta.

In November 2021, such cases began to appear in large numbers after the army, which, a year ago, seized control from Myanmar's democratically-elected government, declared that it would seize the properties of its oppositions and apprehend those who provided protection to those agitators. Subsequently, there were a slew of raids on people's homes.

Lin Lin Bo Bo, a then car dealer who decided to join an armed group opposing the military rule, was among those disowned by his parents in the approximately 570 notices researched by Reuters.

“We declare we have disowned Lin Lin Bo Bo because he never listened to his parents’ will,” said the notice posted by his parents, San Win and Tin Tin Soe, in state-owned newspaper The Mirror in November.

The 26-year-old narrated to Reuters off of a Thai border town where he is staying after escaping Myanmar that his mother told him she was ostracizing him after army troops arrived to their family home looking for him. He went on to say he teared up after reading the notice in the paper several days later.

“My comrades tried to reassure me that it was inevitable for families to do that under pressure,” he told Reuters. “But I was so heartbroken.”

Contacted by Reuters, his parents declined to comment.

During the 2007 strife, Myanmar's military used a strategy of directly attacking the families of rebel fighters and the late 1980s. However, it has become far more prevalent since the February 1, 2021 takeover according to Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, senior advocacy officer at rights group Burma Campaign UK, which uses the old name for the former British colony.

Myanmar's military junta leader.

One recourse is to publicly denounce members of the family, which is a longstanding experience in Myanmar's culture, according to Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, who says she is frequently witnessing these notices in the media than in the earlier years.

“Family members are scared to be implicated in crimes,” she said. “They don’t want to be arrested, and they don’t want to be in trouble.”

Reuters' questions for this story were not answered by a military representative. In a press briefing in November, military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said then that citizens who made such statements in newspaper articles could indeed face charges if they were discovered to be actively promoting the junta's opposition.

Citizens, many of whom were young, flooded the streets in Myanmar a year ago to protest the junta. Following the army's brutal clamp down on protests, some demonstrators fled abroad or joined armed groups in remote areas. These groups, dubbed the People's Defence Forces, are strongly in favor of the overthrown government.

Per the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group, government troops have cost the lives of 1,500 people in the last year, some of whom were activists, and incarcerated nearly 12,000 people. According to the military, those statistics are inflated.

Two individuals who rejected their children in identical notices and requested not to be identified for fear of grabbing the attention of the military told Reuters that the notices were expressly designed to communicate to authorities that they ought not be found liable for their children's conduct.

“My daughter is doing what she believes, but I’m sure she will be worried if we got into trouble,” one mother said. “I know she can understand what I have done to her.”

Lin Lin Bo Bo said he hopes to one day go home and support his family. “I want this revolution to be over as soon as possible,” he told Reuters.

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