Taiwan’s Myanmar community came out in force on Sunday to protest the continued crackdown in that country following the military coup on February 1.
Gathered beside Taipei’s Liberty Square, demonstrators sat for hours singing songs, holding anti-coup posters and waving the flag of Myanmar. Even younger demonstrators banged pots and pans as a form of protest, as seen within the embattled country.
Estimates for numbers in attendance have ranged from 1,000 to 3,000, according to student organizers and event volunteers. A week earlier, a similar rally at the plaza in Taiwan took place.
A group that calls itself the University Youth Prayer Committee, made up of students, assisted in organizing the rally that lasted from mid-afternoon until early evening.
On stage, several people took to the microphone to condemn the junta’s crackdown, telling harrowing stories of those within Myanmar and re-enacting some of the violence soldiers have orchestrated since the coup. Some in attendance were visibly emotional.
Demonstrators repeatedly sang “Kabar Ma Kyay Buu” – (We will be holding a grudge until the world ends) - an unofficial anthem to remember the 3,000 people killed during the 8888 Revolution in 1988.
Taiwan is a self-ruled democracy that is home to a population of more than 23 million, with 40,000 people reportedly from Myanmar originally.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory despite their break since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when nationalist forces were driven off the mainland by Communist forces and fled to the island.
Su Wai Lin, a volunteer for the University Prayer Youth Committee for Sunday’s event, told VOA, “Our heart and our mind is still in Burma and we didn’t accept the military coup. We want to show the people of Myanmar, even though we are outside of Myanmar, we are with them,” the volunteer said, using a former name for Myanmar.
Hein Dway San, a volunteer from Myanmar's Bago region, stressed the importance to help those within the country.
“A lot of people in Myanmar every time they see the people from other countries, support from Facebook, Twitter, support from the internet, they are really, really happy…I think that can give them a lot of courage,” he said.
“A lot of people have to move from their place because they are doing Civil Disobedient Movement so the military forced them to move from their place, the people need a place, money, to eat. Mostly we get a lot of donations here, and we are planning to send to CRPH," he added.
But the volunteer acknowledged he has family still in his home country and is concerned about what might happen next because of the continued violence.
“My parents told me a few days ago they hear the gunshot so I’m not sure about tomorrow but until now they are safe,” he told VOA.
Myanmar gained independence in 1948 from Britain, but most of its modern history has been governed under military rule.
In 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won the country’s first open democratic election.
But in last November’s general elections, the military contested the results, claiming widespread fraud, without evidence. On February 1, the Myanmar military, also known as Tatmadaw, removed the NLD government. De factor leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained and have since been charged.
In response to the coup, ousted NLD members formed the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), refusing to recognize the military government’s Cabinet.
A civil disobedience movement (CDM) consisting of Myanmar professionals, such as health workers and lawyers, has also refused to work under military rule.
The military has deployed armored vehicles and live ammunition to suppress protests, while martial law has been imposed across the country. The junta has implemented daily internet shutdowns for the sake of the country’s “stability.”
A spokesperson for the non-governmental Hong Kong Outlanders, spoke onstage during the rally in Taiwan, denouncing the brutal crackdown from the Myanmar military.
Based in Taipei, the NGO raises awareness of political issues in Hong Kong following a proposed, now withdrawn, extradition bill that sparked months of anti-government protests in 2019.
“The Myanmar situation is a thousand times worse than Hong Kong, so we’re here to do whatever we can in the international community to support Myanmar at this point.” the spokesperson told VOA. “Myanmar students, the people, they’re allowed to voice out for their country and gather so many people without getting hurt here.”
This past Saturday saw Myanmar’s bloodiest day so far with more than 100 people killed as the junta continues a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters nationwide. The day marked Armed Forces Day, formerly Resistance Day, to commemorate the country’s rebellion against Japanese occupation in 1945.
According to the Assistance Association For Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB), more than 420 people have been killed in Myanmar since the February 1 coup.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) released a statement condemning the Myanmar military’s forceful suppression of demonstrations and that the violence “makes the current situation more chaotic.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again called on the Myanmar military not to use force to resolve domestic political issues, but to resolve conflicting situations through peaceful and rational dialogue and to restore Myanmar's democratic politics as soon as possible,” part of the statement read.