Students Rally in Support of Myanmar Protests18 March 2021
[content warning: violence]
Students rallied in front of the State Library last Sunday in support of ongoing protests in Myanmar against the country’s recent military coup.
Speakers at the rally included students, as well as Peter Khalil MP and Christopher Lamb, who is president of the Australian Myanmar Institute.
The event was organised by the Myanmar Students Association of Australia (MSAA), Next Gen Myanmar, and the National Union of Students (NUS).
Myanmar’s military seized control of the country on February 1 2021, detaining democratically elected Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior figures of her party. The military then announced a one-year state of emergency and transferred power to Senior General Min Aung Hliang.
The protestors—many of whom were students and young people—took to the streets almost immediately. The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated since, with officials now shooting demonstrators with live rounds. Some of the young people protesting in Myanmar wear lanyards and arm markings that state their blood type and their willingness to be donors if they do not survive.
Kyi Phyu Moe Htet, the main organiser of the rally, commented, “Most casualties are reported to be from the younger cohort, most like me and you, in universities.”
While students were gathered in Melbourne, Myanmar experienced its bloodiest day since the start of the coup, with at least 39 casualties reported.
Jeddiah Din, a student from Myanmar at the University of Melbourne, talked about his mother “shivering in fear” when thinking about the Myanmar military.
“My brother three years younger than me felt the need to stand guard outside our house [in Myanmar] at night,” he said.
The protestors called on the Australian Government to tighten sanctions for members of the military regimes and their families.
They also argued that universities should be more supportive of students in Myanmar who may not have suitable studying conditions because of political instability, financial restrictions, and Internet connectivity problems.
Khalil referred to the government’s hesitancy in cutting ties with the “ruthless” regime as “strategic cowardice”.
He also stated that the government should issue amnesty and permanent visas for students and other residents who come from Myanmar because this would allow them to stay in Australia safely.
Htet expressed the need for students to speak up and share about what is happening.
“Student bodies are where most ideas flourish and blossom. It is heartbreaking to see young protesters of our age die for merely protesting. That is why we wanted people in Australia to be aware of atrocities taking place in the streets, in their homes and neighbourhoods back in Myanmar.”
Despite the heavy death toll, there is no sign that the Myanmar protests are slowing down.
Khalil said, “The people on the streets are not going to give up. It is our responsibility, Australia’s responsibility… to play its part.”