On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military launched a coup and forcefully removed the newly elected democratic government. I distinctly remember the events that unfolded that morning, because it was the same morning as my father’s funeral.
Just six months prior, I decided to take a year off from my studies in the Tulane University School of Medicine to return home to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and help care for my father. Midway through his funeral, the sad and grief-stricken atmosphere quickly turned into a state of panic and terror as we witnessed armored vehicles entering the city. Soon after, internet and cellular services were cut off. Since the first day of the coup, Myanmar civilians have continued fighting against an illegitimate military ruling while fighting for a true democratic government. Our fight, through the protests and civil disobedience movements that I have personally witnessed, is filled with unparalleled passion and resilience. Regardless of the subjugation, killings, and fear incited by the militants, the people keep marching on to fight for a voice—a voice that will bring about fair and democratic values in the government, and a voice that will make sure that our future generations will never have to go through such atrocities again.
Growing up in Myanmar, every element of life felt political—from government-controlled daily newsletters to extreme censorship of conversational topics in public. As someone raised in a society that is deeply entrenched in politics, I was motivated to study political science during my undergraduate years at Tulane to understand the inner workings of politics and governments. And with a passion to help mitigate the health crisis and policies back in Myanmar, I decided to pursue a medical degree to integrate the knowledge of medicine with my political science background. Being involved in different medical advocacy organizations and student governments have taught me the importance and necessity of a society that truly embraces democratic values—a system with free and fair elections, active citizen participation in both politics and civic life, and the protection of all human rights regardless of one's background. As I, along with millions of Myanmar citizens fight for our voice and our democracy every single day, I encourage you to use your democracy to fight for others.
Kyaw Zin Htet (Kennis Htet) is an international student from Myanmar (Burma) who is currently a second-year medical student at the Tulane University School of Medicine. As an undergraduate in Tulane University's School of Liberal Arts, Htet studied political science with a concentration in international relations and participated in the competitive Creative Premedical Scholars Program. He has also been involved with Tulane EMS, USG, International Student Advisory Board, and the Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Laboratory at Tulane Med where he served as a research assistant. Htet completed his thesis on health policies and universal health care which was awarded The Anthony F. & Mary Anne Corasaniti Award.