From the runway to the jungle, a former Myanmar beauty queen has joined forces with armed resistance groups fighting back against the military, writing that it is time to “take action” and posting photos of herself with an assault rifle slung over her arm.
In 2013, Htar Htet Htet represented Myanmar in the Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Thailand, which featured a glamorous display of national costumes. But her new attire is deadly serious: it consists of black combat fatigues and a high-powered weapon, according to a viral Facebook post in which she explained her motivation for resisting the Feb. 1 coup through violent means.
“We all protested peacefully and were brutally shot. It’s time to take action, as the saying goes, to fight back,” she wrote in the May 11 post, according to a translation from a Frontier Myanmar newsletter. “It takes a lot of patience, practice, and preparation. We, with pens, with keyboards or with arms, all need to be united to be completely fulfilled.”
Similar photos were posted to a Twitter account in her name.
In the accompanying pictures, she is standing in what appears to be a remote clearing. The location is not identified, though it is likely in areas held by rebel groups along Myanmar’s borders. The original Facebook post has been shared more than 17,000 times.
“As I have left everything I have, there is nothing to lose. We need to be ready for when the National Unity Government calls on the People’s Defense Force to be ready,” she wrote, referring to the deposed political opposition and a new armed civilian wing that has drawn in many others like Htar Htet Htet with no experience in conflict. They’ve taken to the jungle, where videos and photos have shown recruits running and training.
She could not be reached for additional comment.
This week the junta arrested 39 people they said were planning to train with ethnic armed insurgents and set off homemade explosions in the country’s biggest city Yangon, according to state media, which said gunpowder and potassium nitrate among other ingredients were seized.
The escalating resistance comes more than 100 days after the military seized power in the Southeast Asian country and arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, cutting short a decade of democratic gains. More than 750 people have been killed by the military, according to monitors, and thousands have been imprisoned. The economy is in shambles and millions face a hunger crisis, the United Nations warned last month.
So far the military, led by coup mastermind Min Aung Hlaing, has shown no willingness to back down despite widespread resistance from broad segments of the population, including entertainers, poets, doctors and activists who have helped organize strikes and boycotts. The cause has also been a rare source of unity for many of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups, and diplomats abroad have come out in opposition to the junta.
Htar Htet Htet is not the first beauty pageant contestant from the country to publicly oppose the coup. This year’s Myanmar’s representative at the Miss Grand International competition, Han Lay, made international headlines when she used her contest platform to draw attention to the killings and other abuses, asking the world to “please help Myanmar.”