After her video goes viral, champion gymnast appointed coach by Myanmar junta

An internationally recognized gymnast from Yangon who was placed under surveillance by Myanmar’s junta after she was profiled by Radio Free Asia has been given a coaching position by the regime’s sports ministry and is now modeling for TV ads.
The June 13 report on 21-year-old Thae Su included footage of her performing acrobatic gymnastics and also described her family’s strained financial situation. 
The video on RFA Burmese’s Facebook page drew more than 6 million views in the first 24 hours and attracted wide attention from local media, businessmen and from Burmese around the world. The video has since reached more than 8 million views.
Well-wishers donated money to Thae Su’s family in the days after the broadcast, according to sources, and some Burmese people living abroad contacted RFA asking how to help her and her family.
The video has proved a mixed blessing. 
On June 15, administrative officials from Yangon’s Dala township, military intelligence and armed plainclothes officers entered her home as a local media crew was filming and ordered them to stop as they hadn’t received permission from junta officials. She was also told not to speak to any more reporters.
It was unclear why authorities cracked down on the family, and RFA had been unable to contact Thae Su for more than a week after the visit by officials.
But following a June 22 report on Thae Su’s situation, RFA learned that the young gymnast was appointed as a coaching assistant at a township sports and physical education center under the junta’s Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs in Yangon. She told RFA that she would begin training for a team in July.
Acting opportunity
Additionally, after watching the video, popular comedian Moe Di invited Thae Su to join him as an actor in television commercials.
”When I saw her in online videos, I thought she was a Chinese or Korean athlete,” Moe Di told RFA. “But my friends told me that she was a Burmese girl living in Dala and knew that she had an interest in the performing arts. I told myself I could provide her with a good start and I’m glad I was able to discover her talent.”
Gymnast Thae Su is seen at her home in Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: RFA
Thae Su told RFA that she first became interested in sports in 2014 after going to a summer aerobics class – thinking it was a dance class – on the day of her fifth grade final exam.
Since then, she’s competed in physique gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics, wushu and bodybuilding, winning at least 20 prizes at township, district and regional level competitions.
In 2019, she won first prize in the women’s fitness physique open category at the Southeast Asian Bodybuilding and Sports Competition in Myanmar. She also took third place at the World Bodybuilding and Fitness Competition in South Korea that same year. She was only 18 years old at that time.
While Thae Su acknowledged that some people have “criticized and blamed me for telling the truth about my situation,” she said that the response she received from the video has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Because of [RFA’s] coverage, everyone now knows about me, and many people have come and expressed their admiration to me,” she said. “I’ve received a lot of support and donations as well.”
Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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