On Feb. 1, Professor Dr. David Moe screened “Myanmar Diariesin his Religion, Politics, and Identity in Asia class to commemorate the third-year anniversary of the Myanmar coup d’etat. I sat in the front and watched graphic videos of children crying out for their parents and protestors getting beaten up on the streets. It was a series of protests I had never seen nor heard about in most Western media outlets.

The Myanmar Spring Revolution began when the Tatmadaw, the military of Myanmar led by General Min Aung Hlaing, staged a coup d’etat on Feb. 1, 2021. Waves of organized resistance began with healthcare workers boycotting state-run hospitals. Protestors, consisting mostly of Gen-Zers and civilians, proceeded to stage numerous protests that were initially non-violent. But as the Tatmadaw became violent against civilians, they struck back. The Tatmadaw responded with social media blackouts and mass arrests. After three years of turmoil, protestors are now faced with a new conscription law that forces all men ages 18 to 35 and women ages 18 to 27 to serve at least two years in the military. This new conscription law endangers many civilian leaders and protestors as they are forced to face the reality of becoming human shields against their own people.

Dr. Moe was born and raised in a small village in Myanmar and came to the Ivy League at the invitation of the MacMillan Center and the Council on Southeast Asia Studies. Considering himself as an academic, advocate and activist, Dr. Moe’s studies delve into the intersection of religion and politics in Myanmar and broader Asia. 

 “The aim of this current course is to invite students to explore untold stories, exercise curiosity and discover new interests in Asia, especially the Southeast Asian religion, politics and identity,” Dr. Moe said. 

When he’s not teaching, he speaks at academic universities around the world, joins grassroots anti-coup resistances and meets with some U.S. senators to advocate for aid and awareness of the struggles of the people of Myanmar. In my class, he informs us on the revolution’s causes and its experiences. Dr. Moe has also grounded the class in “lived experiences,” he says,  intersecting politics and religion — rather than the common academic and philosophical perspectives. Many students were unaware of the Myanmar Spring Revolution before taking this class, which I believe is indicative of mainstream media’s lack of recurring coverage on these protests.

“Myanmar news has been replaced by other conflicts,” Dr. Moe told me. “I wish the international community could come together stronger and protect the people of Myanmar … at least they have to reject the coup as the hegemonic and illegitimate government.” 

A couple of students I spoke with also expressed feelings of disbelief about not knowing about the revolution. “Myanmar Diaries” captures the civilians’ lived reality: a young child getting bullied in school because his father works and hasn’t joined the movement; an unconscious protester getting beaten up and dragged by the military. Myanmar’s reality is often buried or nonexistent in Western media outlets, as they fail to cover much of what is actually happening. 

In a hyper-polarized time, Western media creates echo-chambers of duality, placing significance on only one topic at a time. Perhaps this calls for a diversion of attention away from Western media to social media. Social media is an instrumental platform that has the potential to spread information and lived experiences. 

“Myanmar didn’t have access to the internet for a long time because of dictatorship,” Dr. Moe told me. “While Twitter is used by some political elites, many young and old people from all walks of life use Facebook today. Facebook has become a platform for social movement against this military coup.”

It is a platform for media equality that should be widespread. While I was talking with one of my classmates, Hameeda Uloomi ’26, about the role social media plays in this context, we pondered on if social media is an effective enough tool. She thought so, citing Elon Musk giving access to Starlink to all countries as an example to follow.

 It is necessary to approach social media posts with caution. Because social media doesn’t come with a vetting system that is capable of sifting misinformation and disinformation from accurate facts, the truth gets muddled. And when perception changes according to social media posts, strong public opinion has the opportunity to shape politics and voter choice for international diplomatic relations. Truth cannot become the victim. 

As I reflected on this documentary, I began to realize social media’s power in offering first-hand experiences. It is ever important to crowd social media with the lived experiences of protestors, who are living embodiments of the struggle for justice and human rights. We must actively search for these stories. These stories hold power in documentaries, videos, poems and more. It is our role as students attending a prestigious university to be an advocate — whether it be through artwork, circulating Facebook fundraisers and organizational events, sharing coverage on the protests or urging our senators to co-sponsor and support S. res.20, a resolution condemning the Myanmar military coup. In a highly digitized world, we must be prepared to uplift other people’s voices. 

Three years later, Myanmar civilians are still fighting. In Dr. Moe’s words, “I would urge the community of local and global citizens to remember the fallen heroes, resist the coup, and revive our hope for the future of democracy in Myanmar,” Dr. Moe said. “One of the most important things to do in human life is to tell the untold stories of others.”

EMILY KHYM is a first-year in Benjamin Franklin College. Contact her at emily.khym@yale.edu