Myanmar Must Turn Sorrow into Strength: Wife of Detained Activist

Myanmar’s junta seized veteran political activist Ko Jimmy, also known as Kyaw Min Yu, a prominent 88 Generation Student leader, on Saturday night in Yangon for his anti-regime activism.

Ko Jimmy, 52, sustained a severe head injury during the arrest at Pin Lon Hnin Si villa in North Dagon Township.

His wife Daw Nilar Thein, another leading 88 Generation Students figure who also took part in the 1988 pro-democracy movement as a university student, has been in hiding elsewhere for her anti-junta activism. She is worried about her husband’s health and says, “the regime must take all responsibility for whatever happens to him”.

Ko Jimmy has been evading arrest since February. The junta issued arrest warrants for him along with Ko Min Ko Naing, another prominent 88 Generation figure, and a few others on Feb. 13 for alleged incitement.

The junta has killed nearly 1,200 people, detained more than 9,000 others and tortured those in captivity and committed gross human rights violations against civilians resisting military rule.

The Irrawaddy spoke to Ma Nilar Thein, who was also a political prisoner under a previous military regime, about Ko Jimmy, her concerns and her message to those opposing the regime.

Detained activist Ko Jimmy. / Daw Nilar Thein’s Facebook

How much do you know about Ko Jimmy since his arrest?

I have heard that he is in Mingaladon Military Hospital. He is being watched.

Do you know about his head injury?

I’m not sure how he got his head injury.

You said two people escaped. What did they say about his arrest?

Two young people escaped while junta forces were breaking down the door. They do not know what happened after that. They said there were a lot of troops.

There was a rumor Ko Jimmy was arrested with weapons. 

I do not know.

Why was he still in hiding in Yangon?

There are a lot of people in hiding in Yangon knowing they face arrest any day. People are in hiding, avoiding arrest and trying to keep anti-regime activities going.

It has been eight months. People in Yangon move around. We knew the risks when we joined the pro-democracy movement. We are doing our best. Not only people inside the country but those aboard are also fighting the dictatorship. People are doing different things in different ways.

It is important to try to stay safe while doing what you can. But we all know we are no longer safe anywhere. Some think it is safer in liberated areas [controlled by ethnic armed groups]. But people there are fleeing the war. They face different problems.

How worried are you about Ko Jimmy and yourself?

If we are arrested by the junta, we know we will be tortured and maybe killed as we have heard many stories over the past eight months. We are all worried about everyone in captivity.

Our concerns reduce slightly when we hear someone has arrived alive in prison. We are worried about him. We heard many things but we can’t confirm anything. I’m worried about him.

Does he have a lawyer?

No. We won’t hire any lawyer because we will not cooperate with those who arbitrarily arrest people, act with injustice and manipulate cases.

People are saddened by the arrest of Ko Jimmy. You have been involved in this revolution and been freed from detention. Would you like to share any message with the people?

Ko Jimmy has been arrested. Before that, our beloved and respected Generation Z, our other dear comrades and student unions members have been arrested in many places. There are deaths. We have to turn these sorrows into strength and we will continue to work to overthrow the dictator. The more we face such difficulties and pain, the more determined we are to work harder to overthrow this dictator.

Irrawaddy News