A Martyr Who Didn’t Want To Be One: Khet Thi

Democracy May 15, 2021

On February 1, the democratically elected leaders of Myanmar from the National League for Democracy (NLD) were deposed by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military), effectively launching a coup d'état. The junta* alleged election fraud despite the electoral commission rejecting these claims. They declared a year-long emergency and stated that an election would be held thereafter.

The National Unity Government (NUG), which was set up in April, was deemed a terrorist group by the junta. Regardless, it continues to operate underground to restore democracy. Many citizens have also vocalised their opposition to the regime. Khet Thi, a 45-year-old poet, was one such activist to declare resistance. His words, “They shoot in the head, but they don’t know the revolution is in the heart,” were popular in the pro-democracy movement.

Ninety-seven days after the junta assumed power- on Saturday, Khet Thi and his wife, Chaw Su, were taken to Shwebo (a centre of resistance in Sagaing) for interrogation by armed soldiers. Chaw Su explained that she was let go after the interrogation but her husband was held in custody. The next morning, she received a call and was told to meet her husband at a hospital in Monywa. She assumed he was there for “a broken arm or something…,” but learnt upon arriving that he had died in detention and was in the morgue. She was informed that he had died of a heart attack but didn’t bother reading the death certificate since she was certain that it was not the truth.

Khet Thi’s family claims that his organs had been taken out, and Chaw Su noted that he was extensively bruised and had stitches. She described how she had to plead with the army not to bury him.

The junta’s spokesperson refused to comment on his death and Reuters, a news agency, was unable to reach the hospital for a statement.

The Association for Political Prisoners alleged that Khet Thi had been tortured at the interrogation centre, in a bulletin that recorded civilian deaths since the coup. The activist group claims that the regime has killed at least 780, arrested, charged, or sentenced over 3000, and issued arrest warrants for around 1500.

Until 2012, Khet Thi was an engineer, but he quit his job to focus on his art and started baking to support himself. Two weeks after the coup, he expressed that he had no desire to be a hero or a martyr and that he intended to oppose the junta even if he had just a minute to live.

Khet Thi’s funeral took place on Monday, in his hometown, Pale. His brother is now in Monywa Prison for participating in anti-junta protests.

The repression has in no way stopped and the wave of arrests continue while civilians brave their way to protests and demonstrations.

It is important to note that Khet Thi is the third poet to lose his life since the coup. Yoe Khat, another poet, said that Khet Thi’s death is a loss to the literary world despite which he would be honoured through the resistance.

* a military or political group that rules a country after taking power by force

This article has been written by Pravallika Manju for The Paradigm

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