While I was studying as a university student back in Burma, 22 years ago, I had come to witness the brutality and the violence by the ruling socialist government at that time against the students who were doing peaceful demonstrations. I think it was already in my blood as a person. For me, whenever I see some injustice happen in front of me, whether it happened to me or someone else, I cannot take it.
And I will always stand up for that. And that's always been in my blood, ever since I was young. So when I was studying chemistry in my final year at the university, I came to be in a group of students who were simply demanding for the true release of a student – a fellow student who was shot and killed by the police without any reason, really.
And even that student was shot and killed right on the spot. His family was not even allowed to have a funeral for him. So basically, for me, as a person, this is a complete injustice. And I cannot take it. So that was the first time I decided that I will do something about it.
And that was the beginning that led me to continue to involve in this struggle for democracy and human rights. And I have come to be advocating for it and striving for it until now, about 22 years already.
There was a military coup in September of 1988: the time when the army really raided the whole cities and towns across the country, and really did the massive killing and shooting. People – not only those of us who were demonstrating on the streets – were shot and killed.
But also, the general public, even in their own houses and neighborhood, were shot. And that killed about 10,000 across the country. And not only that they killed, but the authorities really started to chase down particularly those student activists who were leading. So that included me and my colleagues, my friends. So we were playing mouse and cats games that time, just hiding from one place to another, trying to escape from the arrest. And the army and the military intelligence kept chasing us down.
So finally, we didn't have a chance to be in the country anymore. So the military coup was on September 18th, and then the killing took place until, like, September 19th, 20th. Then things calmed down. And that's the time when they started to really chase down on the demonstrators and started the massive arrest.
My friends and I, myself, we decided not to leave but tried to continue our struggle within the country. So we were hiding from one house to another. And then we tried to reorganize among the students, but it didn't last long: for about a month or so time.
They finally found us, and we had no other place to hide anymore. So in November, early November, my friends and I, we had to leave the country.
Well, I moved back to the region, or to the border, because that's always been my plan since I left the border area, since I left for the United States. My plan was to come back to Burma, if I can, and contribute for the democracy development in the country. Or if I cannot go back to Burma yet, to come back to the Thai-Burma border and continue to work with the democracy movement, and do whatever I can.
So my plan was to try to study in U.S., and also get more experience, and try to do what I can while I'm in the U.S.. And I'm very grateful to the United States for giving me this opportunity because, basically, I was able to bring Burma to the U.S. and international agenda, to some extent. Of course, I'm not the only one doing that.
But I'm just saying like being an advocate myself, I did a lot of this: different levels of advocacy work. So I was able to do that while I was staying in U.S. for about nine years. But then I realized the time when, I think it was in 1996, when the Burmese Army, the Burmese military troops actually invaded into Thailand and then attacked one of the Karen refugee camps.
One of those Karen refugee camps was actually burned down, and then the refugees were chased out by the Burmese Army. Then, when I learned that news, I realized that this is the time – I have to go back. And I'm ready to do something, even though I don't know what I will be able to do. So that was in 1998. I decided to come back to the border.