In 2000, he released my country’s first hip-hop album. In what was then Myanmar, this was almost a revolution. His rap touched the lives of many.
In 2011, after a period in prison for his political activism and just as our democratic transition began, Zeyar Thaw was released and elected to parliament.
I had already endured 11 hard years as a political prisoner under a previous military regime between 1998 and 2009. Most of them I spent in solitary confinement. This time I couldn’t watch another despotic general throw my country into chaos. I chose resistance.
So did Zeyar Thaw and Ko Jimmy and many thousands across Myanmar. Nurses, teachers, doctors, farmers, even children — they took to the streets against the unwanted coup.
We have chosen to assert our legitimacy as elected MPs. We have formed the government of national unity because our freedom will not be stolen by the Russian cannons of the army.
We have experienced firsthand that Russia’s military interference is not limited to Ukraine. Russia and Myanmar are strengthening their ties and we see it as part of a larger strategic engagement with Southeast Asia – a coordinated effort to promote autocracy and erode democracy in the region.
We live in a world where dictators support each other to maintain their power. Therefore, it must be clear that the struggle for democracy and freedom waged by the Myanmar people is a struggle that affects everyone.
I am the Foreign Minister of the Government of National Unity of Myanmar. My job is to tell the world that we will not be defeated. But what can I say to the people of Myanmar in return? What does the world say to us?
It claims to target what it calls and has called “terrorists” and blames many of these incidents on resistance fighters, rather than its own military.
We must overcome this junta and change their calculation so that they realize that they cannot keep Myanmar in the chains of their fear and greed forever.
This is how we’re going to do it.
We must deny the junta the income that finances its violence. The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have imposed some sanctions against the regime. But much more needs to be done to deny the junta the foreign currency it craves.
The military continues to rely on funds from foreign companies to finance its acts of war. That flow of money, especially petrodollars, must and can be stopped.
The example of Ukraine shows how the world can use economic levers to put pressure on a regime.
The murderous acts of the Myanmar military will not stop until their income falls.
Domestically, we will overcome the junta through the power of inclusion. My country has been at war with itself for decades. Now, unlike the military, a new alliance between Myanmar’s ethnic groups is building a new, shared future. We are tackling the root causes of violence through our new Federal Democratic Charter – a plan for a decentralized, inclusive Myanmar. We learn together where to go.
This vision has been validated by our National Union Consultative Council, the most inclusive, content and people-centric process we have ever had in Myanmar. This NUCC brings together representatives from different political parties, ethnic voices and civil society to create common solutions to the challenges we face. We learn together where to go.
In these areas, we work with ethno-political and civil society organizations to build local administrations led by the people’s representatives, and these new administrations take responsibility for health and human services.
This tactic is well known, creating elections where only they can stand, only they can win, and then parade the results as if it matters. This traps Myanmar in endless cycles of powerlessness and violence.
They made it clear that they want full control over humanitarian aid as a way to gain legitimacy and influence their strategy.
We at the National Unity Government stand ready to empower humanitarian organizations to reach those most in need. Myanmar has a resilient civil society that does an incredible job serving their communities. Humanitarian aid can and should be delivered accountable to the Myanmar people.
We have seen the international response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That response gives me hope. We do not want to live in a world where such crimes can be committed with impunity. People believe that Ukraine can and should be free.
My country, the people and my friends — Zeyar Thaw and Ko Jimmy, are about to be killed — they’re waiting for the world to believe that Myanmar can be free too.