Doing More Than Just Rocking Out in Myanmar
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because he’s screaming not only at his fans during a performance — he’s also screaming at the government.
Kyaw Kyaw, age 26, is a punk rocker, former monk, and aggressive musical activist in Burma.
But his dad still doesn’t like his clothes.
The son of a policeman, Kyaw Kyaw, a Yangon resident, is a singer and songwriter in the punk band Rebel Riot, which he founded in 2007. He rages daily against the government that employs and supports his father.
“I cannot change the world or Burma, but I can shake up the people around me,” he says from his one-room, $120-a-month flat, which he shares with two other 20-something roommates. A cockroach crawls along the wall. He sprays white color on it to make it invisible.
Kyaw Kyaw objects mostly to the monk Ashin Wirathu, who implies that the Muslims endanger Buddhism and Burma itself.
In 2011, a process of democratization began in Burma. The military dictatorship transferred into a civilian government that mainly consists of members of the old elite. Deadly clashes between Buddhists and Muslims continue every day. Those in power tolerate it.
The radical movement of a group of Buddhist monks, “969,“ wants to make Burma a Muslim-free zone. Kyaw Kyaw objects mostly to the monk Ashin Wirathu, who implies that the Muslims (accounting for 4 percent of the population) endanger Buddhism and Burma itself. Wirathu doesn’t stand alone in these beliefs. The nation seems increasingly willing to accept them as givens.
“They make the Muslims a scapegoat to distract from other problems,” says Kyaw Kyaw.
Kyaw Kyaw left school at age 16. At school, he had witnessed the military government’s attitude toward the educational system. He had watched schools being left to deteriorate due to the government’s fear of student riots and of the criticism of an intellectual elite.
Today, he earns money by selling handmade punk clothes, jewelry and CDs on roadsides.