A year after the coup, guilt and defiance for Myanmar exiles

It was more than nine months after the military staged its coup in Myanmar that journalist Khit Thit chose to leave the country.

In the weeks after the generals’ power grab, Khit Thit spent her time racing around Yangon, the country’s largest city, documenting the pro-democracy demonstrations that were taking place daily.

Authorities’ initial response to the protests had been restrained, but within weeks the security forces began beating and arresting peaceful protesters, firing live rounds into crowds, deploying snipers, and conducting point-blank executions.

A few weeks after the coup, Khit Thit, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was covering a demonstration in Sanchaung, a narrow warren of streets just north of Yangon’s city centre, when she narrowly escaped the clutches of the police, taking refuge in a nearby hotel. She reached the rooftop of an adjacent building, from where she saw officers viciously beat a protester as he pleaded for mercy.

Nights were not much better, with soldiers patrolling neighbourhoods after dark, and forcibly entering homes to arrest those suspected of taking part in the protests.

“It was a really scary time. I couldn’t sleep at all, and was constantly worried I’d be arrested,” she said.