For certain reasons I cannot show my face, but I can use my voice

I’m Miko, I’m journalist from Myanmar, but currently based in Bangkok, in Thailand.

One year after I got my diploma in journalism the military coup happened. Since then, collaborating with my teacher, I publish many articles for Thai, French other international media outlets, and I started to create contents for a Myanma media NGO, Visual Rebellion. I give workshop to other journalists talking about my experience, and I’m a member of the International Press Institute.

I always wanted to be a journalist, since I have memory. In my vision, work should always bring you something new, I can’t just stay in an office, feels like living the same day for the all week. As a journalist you travel everywhere, meeting with all sort of people, it is just more interesting for me.

I really wanted to write news about the environment, air and water pollution, and what is happening to our beautiful nature. When the coupe happened, I had to switch and start writing about politics, protests, clashes between the military junta and their opponents, the pain of the civilians, bombs and airstrike all over the country.

I never took part in the protests. Journalists cannot be activists or politicians, we are in the middle, we have to say the truth. I stay away from propaganda to evaluate things and facts in my own way, to keep the balance.

When the coup happened, I was in Yangon. As youngsters, we never saw that chaos in our lives.
Our parents told us about the 80s when there was a military ruling in the country, but our generation would have never thought that could possibly happen again.

On 1 February 2021, the military junta took the power was 3am in the morning, the whole country was in an internet shutdown, literally no one could access the internet connection. At 8 am a statement was published, the president and prime minister got arrested, and we acknowledge that was a military coup. There were so many rumors. At some point we were convinced that the UN would intervene to calm down the situation, maybe that was just a temporary turmoil. People didn’t actually move for the following 72 hours, we were waiting, observing quietly in our homes, hoping for the international community to help us. After that 72 hours we understood the international community was not on its way to Myanmar coming to save us, so people took the street and start protesting.

It was like I never been scared in my life before. What if I die in that chaos? Should I hide in my home? Initially I didn’t want to go outside. If I don’t cover what is going on, will there be someone else doing it?

From the day one I went out taking pictures and writing news to cover the protests. That was madness. The militaries were trying to kill everyone in the street. People couldn’t handle it anymore and the manifestations stopped after two months.
I was just keep doing my job. In that moment was important to tell that people were peacefully protesting and the military was using all sort of brutal violence against them.
In my mind I was hoping just one thing: help from the international community, protesters were innocent, they didn’t do anything, and they were shot to death. But nothing happened, no one came, people were fighting by themselves, we are still by ourselves.

Protesters were marching rising 3 fingers of their hands. We took that symbol from the Thai uprising who actually got it from the movie Hunger Games. It represents freedom, and even if you are not free to speak up, you just need to rise 3 fingers and everyone would know the only thing you want is democracy.

While covering the early days of the protests, it was at 11pm, one military soldier driving a truck was going in the street were people were protesting. He was trying to pass over them to kill them. We had to run. A mass of people was running and screaming on the narrow street. A friend of mine was with me. We didn’t know each other since long, we met in that period, while covering the protest. He was running after me and suddenly got shot in his head. He died there, beside me. I was shocked, I didn’t want to get out from home anymore.

Different journalists, different people and different perspective are needed to tell what is happening in every single part of Myanmar, otherwise, we risk to show only one part of the story.

There are still shelling, not only in the countryside, but also in big cities like Yangon and Magway.
After three months from the coup the bombing started all over the country. People Defence Force, the opposition known as PDF, attacks police stations and military bases while the militaries answer back targeting even civilians. There is so much violence in Sagaing region, few weeks ago a school was bombed, 100 people died that day.

I moved to Thailand one year after the coup, it was a tough decision to take. I can hardly bear the idea to be abroad and heard the news from my own country from outside, some details are missing, but anyway, if I stay inside Myanmar I cannot do my job.

Inside Myanmar authorities control every single mobile banking. Each phone call, each message, sent or received is tracked, each opponent’s voice is persecuted, jailed, killed. Is not only for me, also my family can get targeted for what I share, write, picture, and say.

As a paradox, the only way to inform the people about Myanmar is to stay outside Myanmar, but the good thing is that I can still access the country, I go back and forward. Every 3 months I go to take some firsthand information and monitor how is the situation there.
There are many things I have to take care about to preserve my safety when in enter inside the country. First of all, I delete everything I have in my phone, and I have two account, one pro-military, one pro opposition, People Defence Force, PDF. In the first one, I show myself as a supporter of the military junta, I even have a Facebook account in which I share many good stuffs about their ruling, I’m even following their private Facebook groups. Once the militaries see my account they let me go without checking too much, thinking I’m on their side and I just went to Thailand as a student. If you don’t do that, they would check every single application that you have in your phone.
One the other side, when you go to the regions controlled by PDF you need to change your phone back again since they would immediately arrest you if you look like a military supporter.

Many people get detained because of what they have inside their phones. When the coup happened, users started to post a black profile picture on their social media. It is just a black image, nothing more, but that shows you disagree with the military ruling and many people got jailed for that, just for a black pic. You have to be so much careful with what you share online.

Thailand is not the safest place as well. Our embassy in Bangkok has informers that communicate with the authorities in Myanmar. If looking suspicious you might get tracked, and see your visa rejected. You are not in your own country, but you still have so many eyes on you, and that’s why I need to use anonymity in my reporting. I cannot show my face, but I can still use my voice.

PDF does that as well. They kill informers from the military on the street, but this kind of news is not published anywhere, not even BBC. Media only take one side, they kind of hide what is happening for real. It might be risky for me to say that, but the truth is that not only the military is killing the people. For PDF suspecting is enough to killed. They are not all spies, maybe they are just civilians, perhaps is just a random guy passing by, that happens quite often and people lose their life for nothing, for being in the wrong side at the wrong moment.

Inside or outside Myanmar you have to stay in one side, you cannot stay in the middle. Is not only about the news, I just don’t want to support anything or anyone that is perpetrating this bloody conflict, but I can’t tell this in front of everyone, I get blamed and I risk my own safety.

I want to reach the world with my voice, and that’s what keeps my motivation high. I want my news to appear in the international outlets in Europe, America, and everywhere else.
I would like to produce better news than big outlets do, we need to show details and people’s stories. While media focus on politicians, they don’t see the civilians on the ground, they put the quotes from political leaders, but the voice of the people is missing.
I like to cover the news in Thailand as well, I covered the elections and I’m now focusing on the pride month. In the future I hope to cover the whole South Asia.

In Bangkok I only have few friends, I stay at home and I go out whenever there is something happening in the city I go and cover it. Most of my dearest friends live in different cities, but I’m only able to travel once per month to visit them. Everything is so much more expensive than Myanmar. The visa that allows me to stay in Thailand for one year is nearly 2000 dollars, it is very hard to afford for those who come from Myanmar, it is just insane.

Also my family is in Thailand right now. They are migrant workers in the region of Phang Nga. Their visa allows them only to work as waiters and cookers in hotels or as housekeepers, and as migrant workers they are not allow to leave the province at all.

I was familiar with Thailand even before moving in 2022 because I was forced to. My mother use to be a migrant worker when I was a kid, and she was often taking me in Thailand with her.
I have good memories of excitement from that period, I was exploring and traveling alone even before 18.

In the upcoming years I hope to meet many people from all around the world, I want to tell and show everyone the stories from our country.
Many people haven’t even heard about the name of our country. Once I met some tourists in Bangkok and when I told them I’m from Myanmar they had no idea what I was talking about, and it’s just there, right after the border with Thailand.

Before I die I want to visit the pyramids and see the penguins in their natural habitat not in a zoo.
I have to think one step at time for my future. The visa is my bigger concern right now, it is going to expire soon, and if I don’t find that money I’ll become illegal in country, hiding myself even more, but I really don’t want to. I can do nothing if I stuck in one place.

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