Dr. Tayzar San, a well-known physician, has led some of the anti-junta protests in Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay. On April 19, military regime authorities publicly charged him with defamation of the state under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code — a charge brought against dozens of protesters across the country. A day later, they issued a warrant for his arrest after security forces did not find him at his apartment. Authorities have announced a 10 million kyat (U.S. $7,000) reward for information leading to his arrest.
Tayzar San is the executive director of the Yone Kyi Yar Knowledge Propagation Society (KPS), a group founded by young doctors and other professionals to promote a knowledge-based society in Myanmar. A decade ago, he founded the Beautiful Mind Foundation in Mandalay to provide free health care services to the poor. He also served as chairman of the Mandalay District All Burma Federation of Students Union.
Though he is in hiding to avoid arrest, he spoke on Wednesday with reporter Soe San Aung from RFA’s Myanmar Service about the anti-junta protests in Mandalay. The Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
RFA: What do you think about the authorities announcing a 10 million-kyat reward for information leading to your arrest your arrest today?
Tayzar San: In this country, as I understand, they are shooting, killing, and arresting whoever they want. Whether they issue an arrest warrant or not, whether they announce a reward or not, they do whatever they want. I have nothing particular to say about the warrant or the reward. I will do whatever I have to do as usual.
RFA: Are you concerned about being arrested?
Tayzar San: I am doing the best I can not to get arrested, but this revolution is something that cannot be stopped or postponed. I will do what I have to do with the utmost energy. We will try not to get arrested and not be hit with bullets. But, as I have always said, we have imagined the worst-case scenario. I will keep working for this revolution as a revolutionary.
RFA: Last week, authorities arrested Wai Moe Naing, a well-know protest leader, who is from Monywa in Sagaing region. Will people stop demonstrating against the military regime once the authorities have arrested all the protest leaders?
Tayzar San: Protest leaders in different cities are getting arrested, [including] Wai Moe Naing, a colleague of mine. News of his arrest caused disappointment and heartbreak among the people. I feel sad that Wai Moe Naing got arrested, but this revolution did not emerge because of Wai Moe Naing or Tayzar San. As long as this revolution lives and as long as the people want to resist the regime, there will be many Wai Moe Naings and Tayzar Sans. Just because someone gets arrested or something happens, people should not abandon their hopes, political ambitions, and pledges. I want to request that they keep this revolution going in whichever ways they can. As long as there is a revolution, more and more Wai Moe Naings will emerge.
RFA: Are the protests in Mandalay still going on?
Tayzar San: In Mandalay, there are dawn protests, and afternoon and evening protests every day. Security forces, both in uniforms and in plainclothes, have been assigned to road junctions throughout the entire city. They stop people, automobiles, and motorbikes for inspection. I heard that they are inspecting mobile phones and that they have increased security in recent days.
RFA: How do you manage to still lead the protests even though you are in hiding?
Tayzar San: Mainly, I have to make sure which streets or routes are the safest for me to travel on before I go to a [protest] site. Because I was born and raised in Mandalay, I know the roads pretty well. I know which streets I need to pass to get to a place. Besides, during the protests, our scouts inform us when police and soldiers in military trucks are coming. That’s why, lately, they no longer use the military trucks when they come. I think they have learned how we work. The police and soldiers are now using passenger vehicles and motorbikes to mobilize. The cars and motorbikes were taken from civilians in previous protests. During a protest the other day, security forces showed up in plainclothes. They carried guns and weapons, but they dressed like regular civilians. We have been trying to avoid them as quickly as we can and use the information from the scouts. Nevertheless, some of our friends have been arrested. For us, no matter how difficult it is, the resistance movement against the military regime will continue in many ways in Mandalay and in other cities across Myanmar.
Reported by Soe San Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.