Myanmar families fearing arrest or confiscation of their property are severing ties with sons or daughters active in opposing military rule, with announcements posted prominently in public media, sources say.
At least 15 activists or militia members were disowned by their parents during the last week, according to media monitoring by RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Film actor Pai Phyo Thu, pop singer Kyar Paul, and well-known news announcer Kyaw Thet Linn — who had worked for Myanmar Radio and Television before the Feb. 1 military coup that overthrew civilian rule — were among those disowned.
Kyaw Thet Linn told RFA he understood the reasons for his parents’ decision.
“My parents, who are over 80, are more in danger than I am because they can’t run away. And if I return home, it would be dangerous for them and me both,” he said. “So, I think they did this hoping that it would be safer for everyone to totally cut their ties with me.”
“It hurts a lot, because both my parents and my wife have now abandoned me. But our sacrifices are nothing compared to the sacrifices suffered by those who have fallen in the revolution,” he said.
Sources said that the families of anti-junta activists living in countries beyond the reach of Myanmar security services have also been targeted for reprisal, leading them to cut ties with their offspring as well.
Ko Linn, an activist living in a Western country, says he has been given up by his family in Myanmar because he has led anti-junta protests in the country where he now lives.
“Some of us Burmese nationals living overseas have been staging protests in support of the shadow National Unity Government, raising funds and supporting Civil Disobedience Movement workers, and all these actions have affected my mother,” he said.
“My family back home has been questioned, and my mother has been detained because they couldn’t get to me instead. She has now been charged under certain laws,” he said.
Ko Linn’s mother has now been held in custody for almost two months, Ko Linn’s sister said, adding that she had to throw her brother out of the family in the hope that the move might get her mother released.
“My mother is still under arrest, and my family members are being threatened. Activists’ family members are now under pressure in Burma,” she said, referring to Myanmar by its former colonial-era name.
“I have nothing to say about my brother’s situation,” she added.
Khin Maung Myint, a veteran high court lawyer in Myanmar’s commercial center and former capital Yangon, said that the announcements of severed family ties may not prevent arrests, as the country’s military rulers are simply arresting whomever they want.
“Despite these announcements, there is no guarantee the junta won’t take action against these families,” he said.
“I think that people are making these announcements out of fear, hoping they might be spared and that fall-out from the actions of their loved ones might be prevented.”
Similar moves were made during national unrest in Myanmar in 1988, when troops killed thousands of civilians protesting another period of military rule, said Kyaw Htwe, a member of the Central Working Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the government that was overthrown by a military coup earlier this year.
“There were many such incidents in 1988, and even after a person was imprisoned, his family could not carry on with their businesses unless they cast him out,” he said. “It’s not hard to imagine how heartbreaking it would be for the rest of the family to take this as a precautionary measure.”
Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1, claiming voter fraud had led to a landslide victory for national leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party in the country’s 2020 election.
The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently suppressed nationwide demonstrations calling for a return to civilian rule, killing 1,291 people and arresting 7,530 over the last nine months, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP-Burma).
More than 70 family homes have been forcibly confiscated by military authorities since August, according to RFA records.
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