By Ramón Abarca
Bangkok, May 28 (EFE).- Aged just 22, Miss Grand Myanmar Han Lay joined the front lines of the anti-coup protests in her country, and has decided to use her international presence to send a strong message against the military junta, like other Burmese beauty queens.
In an interview to EFE from Bangkok – where she has been living since March – the model and psychology student said that the situation in her country was getting progressively worse and the military was “killing people with heavy weapons,” while many citizens had been forced to flee and go into hiding.
At least 831 people have been killed in Myanmar by the security forces – while over 5,000 have been arrested – for opposing the military junta that seized power on Feb. 1 in a coup, overthrowing the democratic government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
In late March, Han Lay represented Myanmar in the Miss Grand International 2020 beauty pageant, and used the platform to issue an emotional two-minute appeal over the situation in her country.
“Today in my country Myanmar (…) there are so many people dying. (…) Please help Myanmar. We need your urgent international help right now,” she had said on stage amid tears.
The model said that she decided to join the competition just to speak out about Myanmar’s situation.
“I thought that if I join the competition, I will get a great opportunity to use the platform to spread my message to the international community,” she said.
Like thousands of other young people in Myanmar, Han Lay joined massive peaceful protests that broke out across the entire country opposing the junta, despite severe repression and firing by the security forces.
“I needed to go out to protest because I voted for the (Suu Kyi-led) National League for Democracy and they didn’t respect our vote. So we need to fight with the military,” said the beauty queen, narrating how she would go out every day to join the street protests in Yangon.
Han Lay has decided to remain in Thailand with the help of Miss Grand International organizers and work as a model.
“If I go back to Myanmar right now, they will detain me for sure. (…) I will go back when the situation is better,” she said.
The model narrated how in Myanmar all public figures who spoke out against the government had been jailed, and admitted that her own family was facing difficulties, with her mother choosing to stay silent to ensure her safety.
Han Lay is not the only beauty queen from Myanmar to take a public stand against the military junta.
Myanmar’s Miss Universe contestant Thuzar Wint Lwin also denounced the brutal repression by security forces in her country on May 16 during the competition.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said in a video message for the competition, urging people across the world to speak up on the issue.
Similarly, Htar Htet Htet, who represented Myanmar in the 2013 Miss Grand competition, announced on her Facebook page on May 10 that she had joined the “revolution” against the junta, along with photos of her holding an assault rifle.
Hundreds of youth in Myanmar are reported to be undergoing training by ethnic minority rebels in the Karen (east) and Kachin (north) provinces, amid increasing skepticism over the usefulness of peaceful protests for bringing about change. .
“The people in Myanmar, (…) they never stop fighting with the military. They are so brave, especially the new generation. (…) I will always be here every time, supporting my country,” Han Lay signed off with a smile, despite acknowledging that it could be a long time before things return back to normal. EFE