Peering through the window of his Mandalay apartment in early March, Hein Aung Htet watched billows of white tear gas float across the skyline. He heard the bang of several gunshots, only later to learn that two protesters had been shot—one in the neck, one in the head—a few minutes’ drive from his home.

The 23-year-old had been applying to graduate schools overseas when Senior General Min Aung Hlaing launched his 1 February coup, aborting Myanmar’s five-year experiment with electoral democracy. The army toppled the civilian government a day before a newly elected parliament was set to take office. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and hundreds of their allies have been arrested. 

Hein Aung Htet immediately put his applications on hold so he could join his friends in the streets. But the days steadily grew bloodier; the death toll stands at over 450, with more than 100 killed on a single day. Hein Aung Htet began to reconsider his role in the anti-coup movement.

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Jacob Goldberg

Jacob Goldberg is a journalist based in Thailand. He is New Naratif's Editor-in-Chief. Reach him at jacob.goldberg@newnaratif.com.