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His story has become the stuff of legend.

In mid-November 2021, 400 Myanmar military soldiers went on a mission to arrest one man in Yangon: a hip-hop star named Zeya Thaw.

Over the last 10 years, he’d become a politician and close ally of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but that was hardly the primary reason for his dramatic arrest.

Aside from being one of the foremost pioneers of Myanmar hip-hop, Zeya Thaw was also the head of the armed resistance in Yangon.

The rebel movement has not publicly acknowledged his true role, but four sources with intimate knowledge of the Yangon underground have confirmed to The Daily Beast his position as the top commander in the country’s largest city.

The underground resistance movement formed after the military overthrew the elected government in February 2021, and peaceful protesters realized their options were limited in the face of the military’s increasingly violent attacks and tactics akin to the kind witnessed in genocidal regimes.

The hip-hop star turned parliamentarian—full name, Phyo Zeya Thaw—led strategy and coordinated armed efforts to root out the military regime in Yangon. That is why the junta was so hellbent on bringing him down. He was the military’s top “get,” but he was given the death sentence, tortured, and executed alongside Ko Jimmy, a veteran resistance leader who was in charge of arms procurement for Yangon, and two other men in the movement. And now officials are still refusing to allow their families to collect the bodies for proper burial.

The resistance movement is torn between wanting to publicly honor Zeya Thaw’s heroism and worrying that the turn to violence might offend the sensibilities of international governments, who, so far, have provided no funding or arms support, despite ongoing military attacks on civilians. While the world remains focused on President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the Myanmar military’s savage crackdown has largely been forgotten outside the region. And the initially non-violent movement has gone from beseeching the world for help to acknowledging, sadly and cynically, that they are on their own. One member, who was also knowledgeable about Zeya Thaw’s training at a clandestine jungle camp, said: “No apology.” Not only did Zeya Thaw do what anyone should be able to do to defend their right to survive, but that, “He showed us the way.”

“The struggle to be free, they want us to lose.”— Zeya Thaw’s hip-hop group Acid

His arrest last November was a setback to the underground movement in Yangon and his recent execution a shocking act of political violence, even by the standards of the Myanmar military. But although he is gone, his influence is far from diminished; if anything, despite the junta’s best efforts, it’s grown, and the nationwide resistance movement - fueled largely by Myanmar’s younger generation—is still going strong.

And that is a surprise. Because until the 2021 coup, Zeya Thaw was an outlier—unusual among local hip-hop stars for how explicitly and publicly political he was, but even more so, when compared to the overwhelming majority of Myanmar’s apathetic young generation.

News Source: thedailybeast.com

Tags: fever dreams pets the military’s the myanmar military resistance movement the underground the underground movement the military hip hop star

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