Coup opposition runs skin deep for Myanmar youth

NAYPYIDAW (AFP) – As Myanmar navigates its shaky future following a military coup that ended a decade long experiment with democracy, young men have turned to the steady hands of tattoo artists to etch their resistance in ink on skin.

Tens of thousands are taking to the streets marching against the return to junta rule, and tattoo parlours in the biggest city Yangon and the capital Naypyidaw have started their own protest campaign.

Naypyidaw tattoo artist Ko Sanay says customers want a permanent reminder of resistance to dictatorship.

He says the most popular request right now is for a tattoo that reads “Kabar Ma Kyay Bu” – a line in an old revolution song that translates as “We won’t forget until the end of the world”.

In red ink he carefully writes out the characters in Burmese beneath another tattoo of a customer.

“We are totally against the military dictatorship. We fight them (in whatever way we can),” he told AFP.

Mr Zaw Myo Htut, said the song lyrics resonated with him and that is why he chose the tattoo.

“I feel angry with a lingering emotion,” he told AFP.

Myanmar’s generals staged their putsch detaining Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, and other top civilian leaders in pre-dawn raids a week ago.

The generals justified the coup by claiming fraud in last November’s elections, which the National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

The junta proclaimed a one-year state of emergency, and promised to hold fresh elections after that, without offering any precise time frame.

It is not the first time political tattoos have been popular in Myanmar.

In the lead up to the country’s first democratic election in 2015 after 49 years of military rule, there was a trend for tattoos of Ms Suu Kyi’s face particularly as a victory celebration when her party won the poll in a landslide.

In Yangon, tattoo artist John Gyi said it brings him solace to know his art in a small way is helping to further the pro-democracy movement.

“I don’t like the military dictatorship so I tattoo those who share the same idea with me,” he told AFP.

He has completed 10 Suu Kyi tattoos since the military detained the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

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