On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military staged a coup led by General Min Aung Hlaing, arresting civilian leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi and seizing power from her elected government. Despite no evidence, the military claimed electoral fraud in recent elections. After the takeover, the junta abolished the government, scrapped the constitution, and put Suu Kyi on trial amid global condemnation. The coup ended Myanmar’s transition to democracy after direct military rule for decades prior.
The People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) are pro-democracy groups in Myanmar that emerged to resist military rule after the February 2021 coup. They are loose alliances of civilians and defectors from security forces, taking up arms against the military junta.
One man is using his tech skills to support the pro-democracy resistance through a unique mobile game.
IT Professional Develops “The PDF Game”
Ko Toot, an IT professional living in Myanmar, developed a mobile game called “The PDF Game” to raise funds and awareness for groups fighting against the military junta. His motivation came after a close friend and the friend’s pregnant wife were arbitrarily arrested and likely tortured by the military regime.
Outraged by these injustices, Ko Toot decided to get involved in the pro-democracy movement by leveraging his technical background. The result was The PDF Game – a mobile game based on the real-life conflict, with characters and missions modeled after actual events and people.
Mobile Game Simulates Armed Resistance Struggle
In The PDF Game, players take on the role of soldiers in People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) – armed pro-democracy groups resisting military rule. Game missions are based on real PDF operations, providing an authentic simulation of the deadly struggle on the ground.
Players complete missions like ambushing military convoys, defending villages from attacks, and sabotaging infrastructure being used by the armed forces. The game takes inspiration directly from the growing armed resistance since the 2021 coup.
Represents Myanmar’s Diverse Anti-Coup Movement
The PDF soldiers that players control in the game represent the diverse anti-coup movement in Myanmar. Groups fighting the military junta include doctors, LGBTQ activists, Muslims, ethnic minorities, and other segments of society.
Ko Toot intentionally created characters spanning Myanmar’s minorities to document their participation and roles in the conflict. Reviews praise the game for promoting an inclusive image of those opposing the regime.
Generates Funds And Awareness For The Resistance
The PDF Game has proven extremely popular, recording nearly 1 million downloads already. It generates funds through in-game advertisements, with estimates indicating it has raised over $500,000 so far. Revenue continues to increase, currently hitting $70,000-$80,000 per month.
Players enjoy the game while knowing it supports groups actively fighting against military rule in Myanmar. This innovative approach is raising significant grassroots funding and boosting international awareness.
Money Goes Directly To PDFs For Aid
Ko Toot sends all donations straight to PDFs inside Myanmar. With limited resources, the money has been crucial for supplying food, arms, and humanitarian support. This includes aiding displaced civilians and those injured in the intensifying unrest.
While he facilitates the donations, Ko Toot allows the PDFs to allocate funding based on their needs on the ground. His game has given a lifeline to the under-equipped pro-democracy groups resisting the military’s abuses.
Junta Threats Met With Defiance
The Myanmar military regime issued warnings against the game after its release, calling it “terrorist” propaganda. But Ko Toot remains defiant. The game has faced issues with Google and Apple over policies, but is now available after name and content changes.
Minor name and content changes were made so the game still complies with policies. However, Ko Toot insists the core purpose remains – to support the groups fighting for democracy in Myanmar.
Ko Toot originally considered abandoning the project, but passionate feedback from players and PDFs motivated him to continue. As the crisis worsens, he aims to someday raise up to $1 million per month to aid the revolution.
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