Ei Mon Thinn Kyu's first memories of her father are prison visits.
Born a few months after his arrest, she turned 16 the year he was released. "My mother kept a tiny newspaper clipping saying my father was arrested for his political involvement," said the 32-year-old medical doctor from Myanmar's second largest city Mandalay, and currently a postgraduate student in Auckland.
She recalls vivid details of the many prison visits in those years. Not so much the man who she had never seen or touched outside the prison walls in her early years.
"I remember the white stone steps of the Mandalay Palace, the military barracks where he was detained. We had to carry a lot of things to prison, snacks and food. My mother always cooked beef."
Ei Mon is part of an international network of overseas Burmese who are supporting protests and a growing civil disobedience movement in Myanmar.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to throng the streets of towns and cities across the Southeast Asian nation, weeks after the military seized power in a coup on February 1. At least three people have died in clashes with police and more than 600 people were arrested as of Sunday, according to a Reuters report.
Ei Mon monitors developments every day. She helped organise recent solidarity rallies in Auckland and Wellington, the latter attended by New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
On February 9, New Zealand cut high-level political and security contact with the regime in response to the coup.
Life under military rule
Growing up, Ei Mon and her mother were under constant surveillance as the family of a political prisoner. An army officer recorded every guest who stayed in the hostel her mother ran for medical students. If they had a party at home, a man would be outside keeping tabs on who was coming and going.
"People were afraid to associate with us because of this," she told the Herald.
As a schoolgirl, she remembers waking up hours before dawn when the generals came to visit. Schoolchildren lined the street, tired and hungry, waiting to welcome the generals who finally arrived more than three hours late. "We waited the whole day, cancelling our school schedules just waiting for them to come," she said.
The children had to put their palms together to greet the army officers, a gesture of respect usually reserved for monks and senior family members. Ei Mon did it even though she didn't want to. "I remember feeling scared, because anyone who has relatives in the army or police has the power to do something to do you," she said.
She remembers the day her father was released. She was helping out at her mother's grocery store on a busy day in 2005 when a car drove up and stopped on the street. A man stepped out.
"All of a sudden my father was there, outside the shop," she said.
"My mother and I, we didn't know what to say, or what to do."
Years of jail and cigarettes, the prison currency, had taken their toll on her father's physical and mental health, and the family struggled to adjust to life after his release. They clashed a lot in the early years, and it would take at least a decade before father and daughter arrived at a good place in their relationship. "Those were not our proudest moments," she said, "We were a broken family."
She learned about the torture he endured in prison. After cleaning the slop bucket in his cell, he had to fill it with clean water and drink from it. He learned to hide away bits of every meal, because his jailers could withhold food at any time.
Now 70, Ei Mon's father has tuberculosis and suffers from lung disease. He is not actively involved in the current protests but continues to write political poetry under a pseudonym.
She can't help but worry about his safety back home in Mandalay. For former political prisoners, the threat of arrest never goes away.
Power of the people
Ei Mon belongs to a generation of young Burmese who have grown up under military rule and witnessed Myanmar's hobbled but undeniable democratic gains of the past 10 years. And they are not ready to let go without a fight.
Far away from the action, Ei Mon says they are focused on doing whatever they can to support protests and the growing civil disobedience movement. They are speaking up, translating messages into English, and raising funds for striking workers who have lost or will lose their income.
The civil disobedience movement is trying to break down the regime," she said, "We're encouraging the civil servants to go on strike so the regime cannot function."
While others have voiced fears of bloodshed and doubt the movement can reverse the coup, Ei Mon and her friends are cautiously hopeful. "The power is in the hands of the people," she says.
Plans are uncertain with Covid lockdown and international travel largely on hold, but Ei Mon says she will return to Myanmar when she completes her degree. In her culture, children care for parents in their old age, and she will do the same.
The Myanmar army has said it will hold an election and hand over power to the winning party, but this has had no effect on protesters, who are demanding a reversal of the coup and the release of their elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Her party, the National League for Democracy, won the country's November general elections in a landslide, a result the army decried as fraudulent. The election commission and independent observers say there is no evidence to support the army's claims. Meanwhile, ongoing mass protests and the general workers strike show the extent of the people's rejection of the coup.
"The beauty of the civil disobedience movement is that it's spontaneous and leaderless," says Stanley Saw, a senior member of Auckland's Burmese community.
The retired engineer says psychological warfare is going on, where peaceful protesters are beckoning the police to take the side of the people.
Like Ei Mon, he is optimistic about the civil disobedience movement but says there are clear groups of people who won't join in. At the top, high-ranking generals and officials near retirement who stand to lose their pensions; in the middle, disinterested citizens and people who cannot afford to go on strike; and finally, diehard army supporters.
This is the third coup in Myanmar's recent history, first in 1962 under General Ne Win, and again in 1988 led by General Than Shwe. Both saw popular uprisings that were quashed in violent crackdowns by the military.
Saw is heartened to see young people risking personal safety and arrest to stand up for democracy, despite only having had a taste of it for 10 years.
"They're saying, 'Our grandparents fought and lost in 1962. Then our parents fought and lost in 1988. Now it's our time, and if we lose, we may lose another 60 years to dictatorship. We can't let that happen again.'"
"They are resolute," he says.