Viral Woman Who Danced Through Myanmar Coup Tells Us What Happened

She initially assumed security was tightened because of parliament opening. Then she checked the news and became part of history.
February 3, 2021, 6:15am
myanmar coup, exercise, aerobics, video, dance, woman, aung san suu kyi
Photo courtesy of Khing Hnin 

As Myanmar’s democratically elected leaders were detained by military forces on Monday morning, the first moments of the coup were captured in a bizarre dance video. The post, which has since gone viral, features a woman bopping energetically to upbeat music. Behind her, history played out as a string of military vehicles drove along a road leading to parliament.

Identified on Facebook as Khing Hnin Wai, the fitness enthusiast continued step-step-stepping to her rhythmic workout, seemingly oblivious — or simply unbothered — by the intimidating convoy of black SUVs rolling down the purpose-built capital’s 20-lane highway behind her.

Shortly after the arrests, the military declared a yearlong state of emergency. 

With internet connection and mobile signals down, people across the country were caught off guard by the swift military takeover. This included Khing Hnin Wai, who, according to her Facebook post, was in the middle of filming an aerobics workout routine in the capital Naypyitaw “before the morning's news came out.” 

It started out like any other day for her. The 26-year-old told VICE World News that she has been teaching students aerobics since becoming a physical education teacher in 2019. 

Originally from Naypyitaw, she was looking for a job after graduating from university when she started volunteering at a nearby school. She was then hired as a teacher, even though her mother wanted her to join her peers who had found higher-paying jobs at a bank. But she wanted to do a job she enjoyed. She obtained official certification as a personal trainer and has since been giving aerobic training to students.

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“Fewer boys join the class as they are shy dancers,” she joked.

And as it turns out, her viral video is part of a school initiative. 

“It’s an aerobic competition organized by the Ministry of Health and Sports,” she said, adding that participants have to record themselves doing an aerobics routine, upload the video on Facebook, and tag the sports department.

Khing Hnin Wai said that she was exercising and dancing from around 7:30 a.m. While she noticed the convoy, she just assumed that security was tightened because of the new parliament session, which of course never convened. She wasn’t getting updates on the news right away because mobile signals weren’t working in Myanmar’s capital all morning. She uploaded her video on Facebook later that day just as the news was trickling out and internet connections were restored.

As the video went viral on social media, speculation followed. Some skeptics were vehement that she used a green screen, but online sleuths quickly debunked this theory, with experts agreeing that the video is probably real. She has also confirmed to multiple media outlets that the video is genuine.

Following her viral fame, Khing Hnin Wai also shared a series of similar aerobics dance videos, all filmed in the same spot. Besides online detectives, the instructor gained attention from those who were straight up vibing with her nonchalance.

And of course, she became an instant meme.

In a stranger twist to an already bizarre story, observers have pointed out that the soundtrack of the workout provides unexpected commentary on the dramatic events that took place on Monday morning. 

The Indonesian song, titled “Ampun Bang Jago,” gained prominence as the anthem of Indonesia’s anti-government protests last year, most notably to oppose a jobs creation bill that has since been signed into law. Its lyrics include: “They are coming one by one, to fight over the throne.” The phrase Ampun Bang Jago, which translates to “forgive me, master,” is used sarcastically to mock the police and the authorities.

But the lyrics are just another coincidental connection to one of the most surreal moments in Myanmar history.