American-Burmese couple were finally ready to get married after years of long distance. Then the Myanmar coup happened

Kenny Kruse Yar Zar Min Myanmar 1

Five years after meeting in Myanmar, an American and his Burmese fiancé were ready to finally be together. Then, a military coup happened.

Kenny Kruse, a teacher in San Francisco, told PinkNews that after years of long-distance dating, his fiance Yar Zar Min was almost ready to join him in the US, where they were to get married.

But the pandemic and the military coup in Myanmar put a stop to their plans for the future, with the couple unsure of when they’ll be reunited.

Kruse said he met Yar Zar Min on Grindr in Mandalay, Myanmar’s former royal capital, when Kruse was working there in 2016. The pair weren’t looking for “anything serious” at the time, but it “quickly evolved to that”.

Kenny Kruse Yar Zar Min Myanmar 1

(Kenny Kruse)

However, the star-crossed lovers faced “a lot of logistical problems” trying to stay together.

Kruse explained that Yar Zar Min has a “relatively good job” in Myanmar, working at an international NGO, but there are “not job opportunities for Burmese people outside Myanmar”.

The pair planned to get married in Australia in 2018, but a “friend of a friend” discouraged it, warning it would be difficult for them to get a visa. Instead, they decided to reunite in the states, where Yar Zar Min could apply for a fiancé visa.

Kruse moved back to the US in January 2019 after their immigration lawyer said he would need to be in the country for Yar Zar Min’s visa application to be approved. But the couple still faced hurdles.

As part of the US immigration system, the sponsoring partner must be a US citizen or green card holder and must meet certain income requirements. Specifically, the adjusted gross income on their most recent tax return must be equal to at least 100 per cent of the federal poverty guidelines, which currently sits for a single household at $12,880.

“I was working some odd education jobs and in the service industry so, on paper, I didn’t quality [to sponsor Yar Zar Min’s visa application],” Kruse said. “I moved to San Francisco for many reasons: one of them being that I would be able to find a job that crossed that poverty threshold.”

Kenny Kruse Yar Zar Min Myanmar 1

(Kenny Kruse)

The couple were closer than ever to making their dream of being together a reality. Then, COVID hit.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kruse said he’s been “in a holding pattern”, working and waiting to see if Yar Zar Min could immigrate to the US. The pair had bought a ticket for Yar Zar Min to fly to the US on 25 February, but then the military coup threw all of their plans up in the air.

“With the coup, we weren’t sure at first if he would be able to leave the country at all. They closed the airports for four days,” Kruse explained.

After not having seen each other in almost two years, Kruse said it is “insane to me that we have had to work this hard and wait this long just to get through this first step – getting him to the country on a fiancé visa”.

“It’s a nightmare that this is just the beginning,” he added.

We’re both taking things one day at a time.

Kruse said they’re both trying to take things “one day at a time”, but it’s now “extremely difficult” for Yar Zar Min to think of “leaving his country at this moment of crisis”.

Yar Zar Min has been protesting against the military coup for “at least four days” and has been helping to guard his neighbourhood at night armed with only a bamboo stick

“The military released over 23,000 people from prisons and, in many cases, drugged them and gave them money to terrorise neighbourhoods, poison wells, burn down houses and kidnap people,” Kruse said.

“The military is also disappearing people at night. So, Yar Zar has been helping with protecting his neighbourhood.”

Kruse said he fears for his fiancé and keeps telling him that he could “do so much from here [the US] to support people” in Myanmar.

kenny kruse yar zar min myanmar 3

(Kenny Kruse)

The couple hope to live somewhere in the future where “we are legally able to have kids and a good quality of life”, “whether that’s in the US, Europe or Thailand“. He added that Yar Zar Min wants to attend university and continue working for NGOs while he wants to complete a PhD and continue teaching.

“Once he gets here, we will get settled in, deal with the immigration process stuff, lots of logistics, and then reassess where we are,” Kruse said.

What is happening in Myanmar?

On 1 February, the military seized control of Myanmar and put the country’s elected officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the November general election by a landslide.

The military backed the opposition, claiming widespread fraud, and has declared a year-long state of emergency. The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.

The people of Myanmar – including the country’s LGBT+ community – have taken to the streets to protest the coup and are demanding Suu Kyi’s release. Protests have been largely peaceful, but at least two people have been killed. According to the BBC, police used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators in Mandalay, injuring at least 20 people.

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, who was shot in the head on 9 February at a rally in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, became the first confirmed death from the protests on 19 February. Police denied using lethal force.

Military authorities say a policeman has been killed since the protests began.