Fighting for democracy from afar: Myanmar activists in the diaspora

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In Myanmar, thousands of pro-democracy supporters have taken to the streets since February to demand an end to the military coup. So far, the junta’s forces have killed over 800 people and abducted and detained thousands, often using brutal force to quell dissent. Despite the ongoing violence and repression, Burmese people remain resilient, continuing to gather to make their voices heard. 

Women are leading the call for freedom, making up more than 60 percent of protesters - and across the world, a growing network of women and girls is joining them in solidarity. Some are writing resistance poetry, others are selling traditional food at fundraisers, and even more are spilling onto the streets to make their voices heard.

Some of these women are seasoned protesters from renowned political families - but they are being joined by a younger generation of activists, appalled that democracy in Myanmar is still not a reality for their families back home. 

Here are their stories:

Par Tha Hniang

It is up to you and I to be the pillar for those struggling in Myanmar right now

University student Par Tha Hniang has been selling traditional Burmese food to raise money for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. She is from the Chin community, a persecuted ethnic group from western Myanmar, where she lived until she was seven. Now she lives in Lewisville, Texas, home to around 4,000 Chin refugees. 

Myra Dahgaypaw

There are no words left to describe the brutality of the Burmese military

Myra Dahgaypaw is the director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an organisation that works to raise awareness on the human rights violations and mass atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities committed by the Burmese military. She is from the Karen community, a persecuted group living in eastern Burma, and has first-hand experience of the violations committed by the military junta. 

Bawi Hnem SungTeenagers my age are dropping out of school to protest

17-year-old high school student Bawi Hnem Sung and her family fled Myanmar when she was only three. She is also from the Chin community in Lewisville, Texas, and is part of the Lewisville High School Chin Club.

 

Thant TunThe coup is a catastrophe for our motherland

Born into an activist family, Thant Tun has been involved in the struggle for democracy in Myanmar since birth. The current coup has had devastating ramifications for Thant - her god-daughter Khin Nyein Thu was detained in Yangon on 17 April and has been subjected to torture and abuse. From the U.K., Thant is a nurse who devotes her spare time to fighting for freedom in Myanmar.  

Supyae Yadanar

The coup in Myanmar spurred me to action

Supyae Yadanar writes resistance poetry and organises protests in Dublin, Ireland, where she is currently studying medicine. She is Advocacy Co-Lead of the Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4DM), an international coalition of grassroots organisations and individuals working to support Myanmar’s democracy.

 

Wai Hnin PwintWe need help from the international community

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon’s father, Mya Aye, is a former and current political prisoner who has been at the forefront of Burma’s democracy movement for over 30 years. He was arrested in Yangon on the first day of the coup, February 1st.  Based in Geneva, Wai Hnin works for Burma Campaign UK, where she has advocated for the release of political prisoners for over ten years. 

To find out more about these activists and their work, read Newsweek's article ‘Myanmar Refugees Who Fled to Texas Fight for Democracy From Afar.