Countering the Coup, One Verse at a Time

On March 4, his sister received a police summons to the Monywa mortuary. She identified her brother’s body, Ms. Khin Sandar Win said. A bullet hole punctured his left temple. A long slash ran down his torso.

The family wondered whether the gash signaled that his internal organs had been removed, a desecration increasingly found among those killed by the military in Myanmar. But Mr. Chan Thar Swe was cremated before his relatives could find out more.

His mother now spends her days looking at photographs of him, her oldest child, on Facebook. Along with his ashes, it is all she has of him.

“My brother did not support us financially because he was a poet, but he protected us whenever we needed,” Ms. Khin Sandar Win said.

At Mr. Chan Thar Swe’s funeral, another poet, Ko Khet Thi, recited a poem he had written for those killed by the security forces, many with a single bullet to the head and some when they were not even protesting.

They began to burn the poets

When the smoke of burned books could

No longer choke the lungs heavy with dissent.

Weeks after the funeral, Mr. Khet Thi, a onetime engineer, was hauled into detention and later turned up dead, according to his family. His corpse also had an unexplained incision down his torso, the family said.

“I am also afraid that I will get arrested and killed, but I will keep fighting,” said Ko Kyi Zaw Aye, yet another poet from Monywa who was close to both men.

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