Master Black

ယခုဆောင်းပါးကို မြန်မာဘာသာဖြင့် ဖတ်ရှုရန် ဤနေရာတွင် နှိပ်ပါ

Cite as: 
The Memoir of Master Black. (2022). Independent Journal of Burmese Scholarship, 1.

Call me Master Black. I’m thirty years old. I was in the army for five years and before that I was a private taxi driver. I want to tell all of you, the people, and particularly everyone in the army, to not be discouraged. Take care of yourself until the time is right. Many of us are waiting for you to join us, away from the military.

You may think it will be bad for your family, for your children, if you leave the barracks. Yes, you can be imprisoned or prosecuted. But you can leave if you really try. Always remember, the military is not telling you the truth. Do your own research, think for yourself: What is right, and what is wrong? Do not be enslaved.

I myself could make it out only with the help of a friend. We had to plan very carefully. And my family is still in the military, both my father and my brother. I left without consulting them; it’s better that way, because they are less likely to be punished by the military. What they don’t know can’t hurt them. I still talk to my brother sometimes on Facebook, and he says none of the family has suffered from my decision yet.

Only now do I know what is right and wrong. After the coup I was drafted from the 45th Naval Industrial Battalion, where I mostly did office work, into the Rapid Attack Force in Dawei, which was set up to attack and detain protesters. For two months I was deployed against protesters. Sometimes we would hear the protests gathering steam and then deploy from the barracks; sometimes informants would give us information about planned or ongoing protests and we would head out.

When we crushed protests, we brought sticks, slingshots, rifles and shotguns with real bullets. I witnessed civilians beaten by my army and police colleagues many times, beaten with iron rods and bamboo sticks, and many other crimes. I was ordered to attack protesters, but I avoided it. I stayed close to our vehicles away from the violence and said I would act as car security. In the end, I was reprimanded for disobeying orders and sent back to my old job. During this busy time of attacking protesters, many of the army and police were admitted to hospital, as they became weak from a lack of sleep and poor diets.

I struggled at this time of reckoning. My family has long been a military family and I have liked soldiers since I was young. I thought the army protects the country and the people. I thought everyone liked soldiers. When I joined up, my father was offered a lot of money as compensation by the military, but he didn’t take it. You know the army pays the family of recruits by age. If you join and have an eighth-grade education, your family gets eight lakh, ninth grade, nine lakh. But I wanted to join the army for other reasons. My father said to the officer who offered him money for me, “Do what you want, Mr. Officer” and walked away.

After crushing the protests and being reprimanded, I came to understand right from wrong. I left the battalion base with a friend in October and walked all night. There were road checkpoints but we disguised ourselves as workers and made it through. I copped an eye injury and my shoes were destroyed from all the forest hiking. When we finally got to a road and on a truck, we were helped along by the driver. He said to us, “Just call me ‘captain’. We can pretend you are part of my road construction team”. It worked. We made it to Kayin State. I was so nervous as I did not even have my national registration card.

Now I am safe, I think back to before the coup and after. Real news in the army has been totally blacked out since the coup. We had to watch the military news instead, broadcast every night. We could only watch Skynet. Our phones, and even our families’ phones, were monitored. Our superiors still take and hold soldiers’ registration cards. Before the coup I respected the military generals. Now I know they are simply liars. They even set up fake accounts on social media and spread propaganda that way too.

They do it because they know they took power by force. They cannot win the people’s votes so they try to manipulate the people’s minds. The military party lost the 2020 election badly, even though the military cheated; I saw people vote twice. I was pressured to change my vote and so were so many others. If I could have voted freely, it would have been for the National League for Democracy. They had good governance and rules and regulations. When they were in power, they did not prioritize authority for its own sake. That’s what I like.

Before the coup, people were not beaten like they are now. Both civilians and military recruits. The military had to ease up and back down because they were afraid soldiers might support the alternative civilian authority. There was some accountability. Everything could be posted online freely and then the government would sue people later. But since the coup, it has been completely brutal. Everyone is beaten and worse. This is wrong.