Where is God in Myanmar
Chris Mabey tells the story of Myanmar, and considers how we can help
Last week we met a young lady from Myanmar serving at a local pub. She and my Burmese wife April were soon chatting as compatriots. It was only later, when all the lunchtime guests had gone, that we heard more of her situation.
It was a heartrending conversation, which brought home the desperate backstories to the newsfeeds emerging intermittently from Myanmar. As a mother with two young children living in Yangon, the military coup on 1 February rocked her world.
‘I had to join the protest on the streets’, she said; ‘I couldn’t just let it happen.’
Day after day she marched in solidarity with friends and neighbours, most were students and young people. ‘On one occasion I noticed government troops on the rooftops either side of the street. I wasn’t worried because I assumed they were just keeping an eye on things. Then my friend beside me dropped to the ground. She was shot dead. I froze and must have passed out. I woke to find friends shielding me in the bushes, telling me to keep down. I had blood splattered over my clothes.
‘My husband told me not to venture on the streets again. I have lost three friends. The troops were aiming their rifles at people’s heads. Can you imagine that? You know, me and many of my friends were born in 1988, the year of the student protest on the streets on Yangon. Now, 33 years later, young people are being shot at again.
‘Fortunately, we were able to leave the country. We caught a flight out some months after the coup, but I’ve left behind members of my family and close friends. I am so scared about their safety.
‘The father of one of my friends has spent much of his life in prison. He is very old now with heart problems. She told me he is in a prison cell in Myanmar ten-foot square with just a toilet. She will never see her father again.’..
Chris Mabey is a chartered psychologist and emeritus professor at Middlesex University Business School. His latest book, Whispers of Hope: A family memoir of Myanmar, was published by Penguin Random House in 2021
This is an extract from an article published in the February 2022 edition of Reform