The revolution in Myanmar is being funded by a mobile game

When troops in Myanmar imprisoned Ko Toot’s buddy and his pregnant wife following the coup in February 2021, he felt so enraged that he decided to join efforts to oust the military from power by using his expertise in information technology. This decision came after he became so angry that he arrested his friend and his pregnant wife.

The app-based mobile game that he designed is a hit, and it is based on “real events” in the country. This has angered the ruling junta, and it has raised funding for the anti-military movement.

Ko Toot said of the couple who were held for supporting the pro-democracy movement that “they had never done a single criminal thing in their lives.” “They had never done a single criminal thing in their lives,”

He was completely unaware of what had transpired with them. The BBC has just recently discovered that the woman was freed within the span of a single day, whilst the male was detained for around one and a half years.

After their detention, Ko Toot learned that the military had also taken into custody the wife and infant daughter of a democratic activist whose whereabouts the military had been unable to determine.

“Imagine that you are a small child and that you are forced to spend your childhood in a filthy, tense, and nasty jail, and that you are completely unaware of what is going on around you. It caused my blood to start to boil.

Therefore, Ko Toot, who is employed in the field of information technology, came to the conclusion that he needed to be a part of the effort to get rid of the “cruel and dangerous” military, and he started developing his game.

Ko Toot communicated with the BBC via encrypted text message sent through an app, and he refused to disclose his whereabouts. For his protection, we are going to use a pseudonym.

After the coup, Myanmar fell into what was essentially a full-scale civil war.

A monitoring group called the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates that since then, the military has been responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 people. According to the United Nations, the number of fatalities is “likely to be far higher.”

It is difficult to estimate the number of personnel casualties; the military has acknowledged losses but has not provided a number. The National Unity Government that is currently in exile claims that the resistance has murdered 20,000 soldiers, although this number has not been verified by the BBC.

Ko Toot’s goal was to create awareness about the situation in the country as well as finances for weaponry and humanitarian aid for the anti-military groups known as the People’s Defense groups (PDF). In addition, he wanted to gather funds for these things.

“I felt that we had very limited international help and awareness,” he said, contrasting the coverage of the crisis in Myanmar with that of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an unfavorable light. “I felt that we had very limited international help and awareness.”

“Real people fighting in a real war,” they said.
His game was initially released in early 2022 under the name The PDF Game.

It does not cost anything to download, but in order to contribute financially, players must watch advertisements within the game. According to Ko Toot, the amount of money contributed to date is at least £403,000 ($508,000).

He claims that his monthly income is “increasing each month” and gives an estimate that it is somewhere between $70,000 and $80,000 at the moment.

Players assume the character of members of the Patriotic Front of Myanmar (PDF) as they engage in combat against military forces and progress through missions that are based on actual events that occurred in Myanmar.

According to Ko Toot, he modeled the characters he developed on genuine people who have fought against the military in the past, such as doctors, Muslims, and members of the LGBT community.

He emphasized the significance of the documentation of them by stating that “they are fighting in a real war.”

According to Ko Toot, the game may be downloaded via the app stores of both Google and Apple; however, it has experienced some difficulties as a result of the businesses’ regulations about sensitive events.

It is now known as “War of Heroes – The PDF Game” on Google Play after having undergone a rebranding. Google has stated that it does not let applications that “capitalize on or are insensitive toward a sensitive event,” but that content is normally allowed if it “intends to alert users to or raise awareness” about the event. Google also stated that it does not permit apps that “capitalise on or are insensitive toward a sensitive event.”

Before it could be removed off the platform, the game’s name had to be changed on Apple’s App Store to “War of Heroes.” According to Ko Toot, this was a “huge blow.”

Apple stated that its principles had been breached by the program, including that foes within a game “cannot solely target” a “real government, corporation, or any other real entity,” as well as a prohibition regarding violent confrontations.

Since then, it has been brought back into use following the implementation of Ko Toot’s changes, which included alterations to the initial artwork and the cancellation of several military operations.

He stated, “This is most certainly excellent news, and we anticipate increasing our income as a result of this change.”

The ruling junta in Myanmar has also expressed its displeasure with the game. In April, a notice was published in state-run media warning the public that they could face legal prosecution for “playing the PDF game.” The junta in Myanmar has also expressed its displeasure with the game.

It stated that “terrorist organizations,” such as the National Unity Government in exile, were responsible for the creation of the game in order to “sow mistrust” against the military and “grow their anti-army revolutionary spirits.”

The threats made by the military have little effect on Ko Toot. “I don’t care what they say,” he added. “I don’t care what they say.”

“They have already tried to stop this several times, but we will just keep going – there’s no way stopping the digital strike,” he said of the online efforts to beat the military using the internet. “There’s no way stopping the digital strike.”

According to Ko Toot, “almost” one million copies of the game have been downloaded so far. (According to Google Play, it has been downloaded over 500,000 times, however Apple does not disclose information on the number of times it has been downloaded.)

Due to the fact that he is part of a very small team, it has taken a considerable length of time for him to get some of the money, which leads him to believe that the actual amount raised could be significantly greater than his estimation.

According to him, these cash are given to the local People’s Defense Forces (PDF), where they are spent on humanitarian support, including funds for children who have been displaced as a result of the conflict and those who have been injured while fighting the military. The funds are also used to purchase food and weaponry for resistance organizations.

“All we do is send money to the various defense groups, but we don’t tell them how to spend it.”

The People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) came into being as a direct reaction to the coup that took place in 2021. Since then, they have allied themselves with other armed groups that were originally organized along ethnic lines and have been active in border regions for decades. They are proving to be a significantly more powerful force than many people anticipated, and the military of Myanmar has lost control of vast portions of the country as a result.

In light of the fact that the resistance has limited financial resources and access to networks of armed supporters, grassroots fundraising initiatives have been essential in order to acquire arms and other supplies for the resistance in the midst of a fight that is becoming more intense.

Ko Toot stated that he had given serious consideration to leaving the anti-military movement on multiple occasions; but, because “the situation in Myanmar is getting worse every day,” he plans to keep providing support for the movement.

He stated that “the game has potential,” and went on to say that he eventually wants to raise $1 million each month.

“I hope that this money will help the people of [Myanmar], who are in desperate need of it right now.”

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