The day after Thingyan, the festival of water that marks the Burmese New Year, Win Ko Ko Aung slipped across the Burmese border into Thailand, hidden among a group of migrant laborers. He had no passport — the workers were entering illegally anyway — because he’d left it in Yangon when he fled that city in a hurry in early April. Since then, he’d been moving from town to town, never staying in the same place for more than a few days.
Right before the festival, a source inside the military junta had warned Win Ko Ko that his name had been added to the “505A list,” a register named after the section in the Burmese penal code that criminalizes online dissent. State television would soon broadcast that he was a wanted man and was marked for arrest. Even if he had a passport, he never would have been able to leave the country through an airport or border checkpoint.
“I had only two options in my mind, either stay here, in Myanmar, and try and live place to place, and one day get arrested,” he told Rest of World over a Telegram call from Bangkok, where he is seeking asylum. “Or take the risk, leave the country. … I picked option two, and decided to survive.”
Illustration by Eric Nyquist. Used with permission.