This Myanmar hairdresser has swapped his scissors for a rifle and military fatigues to fight the junta
- Since the February coup, local ‘defence forces’ have sprung up across Myanmar and many protesters have trekked into the jungle for military training
- ‘There is a difference between being armed and not being armed. Everyone is fighting for their lives,’ Alfie wrote on Facebook after receiving training
The 26-year-old hairdresser has cultivated a glamorous profile online, through a mixture of celebrity clientele and his own TikTok and social media content. After initially joining the anti-coup protests demanding a return to civilian rule, the Kachin native has traded his clippers for a rifle.
Alfie has regularly posted photos from his training with the Kachin Independence Army. His Facebook posts, which include pictures of him posing in green combat fatigues in the jungle and holding an assault rifle, have become a hit among his followers.
“The revolt in the city is the same as the revolt in the woods,” he wrote on Facebook last month. “There is a difference between being armed and not being armed. Everyone is fighting for their lives.”
Since the coup, security forces have launched a violent crackdown on dissent which has left 840 people dead, according to figures from activists cited by the United Nations. The junta says about 300 people have died.
Alfie plans to join the newly formed People’s Defence Forces – a civilian armed group backed by the National Unity Government (NUG) – to challenge the military.
“I want to go home and pursue my hobbies. I want to travel and live a free life … but we don’t know when this fight will end. We must win,” Alfie said. “I love the country and the people more, so I stand up for the truth.”
Although people from different ethnicities have joined the anti-coup training camps, Alfie said everyone has been focused on the same goal.
“Here, we get up at 4am to exercise and train in the afternoon. We study in the evening,” he recently told Radio Free Asia.
Alfie insisted that any fears for his own safety had been outweighed by concern for the country’s future.
“Get rid of the idea that you are no longer safe because you posted training pictures. It is not like before [the 1988 uprising],” he said, referring to the student protests that were crushed by the then-junta in a crackdown that left more than 3,000 dead. “It won’t take more than two years to win since the people are together in this battle.”
At another gathering of a local “defence force” in the jungle in Kayah state near the Thai border, a makeshift factory has sprung up to manufacture rifles. The weapons have not always functioned as planned.
“One night, the military... shot at us with heavy artillery,” said Ko John, a self-defence force member. “When we decided to shoot back at them, our guns did not fire as expected since they were home-made.
“We called for support from our two snipers and we shot eight rounds at them but only six rounds were fired properly.”
Despite international pressure, Myanmar’s security forces have shown little sign of heeding calls to restore democracy.
The junta last week received its first high-profile foreign visitors – the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross and envoys from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing met on Friday with the two Asean envoys.
The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, a group of independent international experts, said it was crucial the Asean envoys also meet protest leaders, members of the NUG, elected lawmakers and Suu Kyi’s party.
“Failure to meet with all relevant parties risks lending legitimacy to the junta and undermines the enormous effort and sacrifice made by the people of Myanmar to resist the junta’s violent and unlawful attempt to seize power,” it said.
Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse