Kaung Htet Aung

ယခုဆောင်းပါးကို အင်္ဂလိပ်ဘာသာဖြင့် ဖတ်ရှုရန် ဤနေရာတွင် နှိပ်ပါ

Cite as: 
The Memoir of Kaung Htet Aung. (2022). Independent Journal of Burmese Scholarship, 1. https://ijbs.online/?page_id=3567

I’m Kaung Htet Aung, 29 years old, Bama, and divorced. My wife left me in 2018.

I come from a very proud family of civil servants. I was always around the military growing up. I joined the military to be a good civil servant and to do my family and the public proud. I graduated as a private from training and became a production professional at an armaments factory. We manufactured a lot of mortar shells there. I think if I did not go into public service and join the army, I would have gone into metal work. It’s interesting.

Over time I came to see a lot of problems with the military. I began to feel ashamed that the arms I manufactured were being used to kill ethnic minorities. I did not kill anyone with my own hands, but I was culpable. I failed these people. I would prefer to go to remote areas of Myanmar and help these people being victimized by the military, if not help them financially, then at least physically, however I can, rather than make bombs to kill them.

When Senior General Min Aung Hlaing took over as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I was initially happy. I thought he was a disciplined general and I enjoyed his speeches. I thought he was going to change the military for the better. I thought he would change the rules and soldiers would stop burning down villages like they used to do. Now, after the 2021 coup and the horrors that he has perpetuated, I do not even know which words to use to describe him.

Before he showed his true colors, in the months between the 2020 elections and the coup, there was a lot of talk about election fraud on the part of the National League for Democracy (NLD). I never believed it for a second. In the 2015 elections, my fellow soldiers and I were taken in front of our commander and were forced to vote for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). We had no choice. We called these “pointed votes”. That is what happened in 2015. That is actual voter fraud. And they didn’t even win after getting us to vote three, even four times.

They did this in 2020 also but I managed to avoid it as I was outside of the base on election day. I voted freely for the NLD; I know that if they are in power, our country and our lives will eventually change for the better. I saw the will of the people on the outside in 2020. Although I am no expert, I saw how the election was being run cleanly and fairly. But the military could not accept that their proxy party, the USDP, still lost even after cheating with their own “pointed votes”.

At first, the Senior General said he would accept the results of the election, but after the election… As soldiers we are even told by our superiors to steer clear of politics while we serve in the army. Ha! Then why are the generals doing this? Always interfering? How can anyone trust them?

And then after the coup, all this killing of civilians. I can’t live with it. The army slaughtered peaceful protesters on the public street like it was a battlefield. As if the protesters were the enemy. Commanders told their soldiers to shoot protesters in the head. If I had been deployed, I could never have done it. I felt so much resentment when the killings started. There is absolutely no justification for this, ever. It’s nonsense. We pledged an oath to protect the people. Not to kill them. These soldiers who murder innocents are being cut down by their own oath.

I tried to get out on 10 May 2021. I did not have contact with any organizations who could help me. I just took my motorbike and rode off to another town. The problem was that I didn’t have any money. I went back my family home to get some cash, but on the way back I ran out of fuel. It was terrible luck, but the place I had to buy fuel from was actually a military-appointed administrator’s shop, and he recognized me, called my local battalion and told them I had joined a People’s Defense Force and had come to kill him.

Well, the soldiers who came to apprehend me happened to be from my base and know me pretty well. They told me to come back to the base quietly and it would be OK. I went back with them. I mean, there were twenty of them, I did not have much choice. They threw me in the base prison for six weeks. But when I was released, I found out that the commander did not report my actions to his superiors. He was giving me another chance. I was reappointed to my original duties.

I kept manufacturing mortar shells, but I was resolved to leave the army. The next time, I did it properly. I contacted the People’s Soldiers organization and planned my escape out thoroughly. I waited three months until 6 September, and then I bolted. It was the Taw Thalin new moon day and I left the base at 2AM. I quietly pushed my bike through the local forest to a nearby town, where I left it with a friend. Would you believe my luck? The very next day the National Unity Government announced “D-Day”. I had planned for checkpoints, but there was much more scrutiny than I had expected. I had to share a car with soldiers at one point, and my wallet was stolen while I was on a bus. But with the help of some kind strangers, I made it all the way to the liberated areas.

If I had of been caught that second time, I don’t know what they would have done to me. I was really afraid for my family and for myself. I didn’t know what kind of future awaited me. Although my family supported my decision, they still live close to the army, and they can never support me openly. What helped me along is the fact that the public was on my side. I even disclosed to some people on the way the truth about my journey, and they bought me meals, telling me they were proud of me. Now I work hard for the People’s Soldiers organization. I hope that more soldiers stand on the side of the people. For those who want to leave but are afraid, I say: trust People’s Soldiers. We will solve your difficulties. Everything will work out just fine. Once the revolution is successful, I will continue my life as a civilian, but until then, I will assist the People’s Soldiers and join in their missions. This is my life now.