WSU Myanmar students fear for families back home

Students displaced following Myanmar military coup; student’s family in hiding



The Myanmar military launched a coup on Feb. 1 following an election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. Military officials claim the election results were falsified.

MOLLY WILK, Evergreen reporter

Several WSU students from Myanmar have been displaced in Pullman since their nation’s military seized control of the government in February.

Sandi Win Thu, plant biology doctoral student and recent graduate Wint Mon Mon Kyaw spent the last five months navigating how to cope with fear caused by the military coup back home. 

The Myanmar military launched a coup on Feb. 1 following an election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. Military officials claim the election results were falsified, Thu said. 

Protestors took to the streets and government workers went on strike in response to the coup, sparking issues in the nation’s medical and financial infrastructure, Thu said 

“No one is safe,” she said. “When you step out of the house you never know what is going to happen because the military coup is shooting any person randomly on the street. But how can you stop going out when you have to run your daily life?”

The military killed hundreds of protesters and arrested thousands of other people, Kyaw said. Government employees began a civil disobedience act and refused to go to work. Military officials are attempting to identify and arrest anyone involved. 

Kyaw and Thu said they both have family back in Myanmar and live in fear for their safety. 

“There was a media cutoff,” Thu said. “Telephone lines, all the internet, everything was cut off and I wasn’t able to contact my home.”

She said her home was shot at by the military in March, breaking all the windows with her family inside. Military personnel attempted to break down the front door in pursuit of Thu’s family, but they fled shortly after, forcing them into hiding. 

“After two or three months, the military stopped shooting and used different tricks, like bomb blasting,” Thu said. “There was one time when I called my family and could hear a bomb blast near my house.”

She was unable to contact her family for a while as they frequently moved locations. Thu said she worries every day for their safety. 

“Asian families stay together. It’s not like the U.S. where everyone lives separately,” Thu said. “It was a very difficult time and of course, if my family is [separated] like that, I cannot stay normal.”

WSU officials offered support both financially and emotionally in response to the coup, granting Kyaw an emergency fund scholarship and helping Thu pay for medical expenses. The university recognizes withdrawing money can be difficult with banks closed in Myanmar, Kyaw said. 

“After this coup, the adviser and international director, Kate Hellmann, had a Zoom meeting every other week letting us know what had happened during this time and asking what support we needed,” Kyaw said.

Thu said international services helped make the immigration process smooth for them while supporting their education and housing situations. 

Kyaw expressed concern for the failing Myanmar economy, the safety of her friends and family, and the future of her home.

“I just want more people to be aware of what is happening in [Myanmar],” Kyaw said. “The more people who know, the less people die. I would say I believe in the people … I believe that we can make it.”