Burmese communities across Texas are calling for an end to the violence and killing of peaceful protesters in Myanmar, also known as Burma, after a military coup in the Southeast Asian country Feb. 1.
Dozens of people from Burmese communities in Austin, Dallas and Houston met at the south gate of the Capitol on Saturday afternoon, rallying to encourage support for the people protesting the military takeover of Myanmar.
Vung Cing, a pastor at the Light House Myanmar Mission Church in Austin, gave a short sermon as people placed roses on the ground in remembrance of the hundreds who reportedly have been killed during the violent suppression of protests.
Cing, who said she is Tedim — one of the country’s many ethnic groups — said she was heartened to see the different communities come together but added that she mourns for the people who have been killed in the past two months during political demonstrations.
“Most of them are young people. One of my nephews, he is 18, and he just finished high school in Myanmar; he told his parents that the young people there do not have a future. That hurts my heart,” Cing said.
‘Security forces are murdering unarmed civilians’:Dozens killed in deadliest day since coup in Myanmar
Sacca Nyene, a monk at the Sitagu Buddha Vihara Buddhist temple in Austin, gave a blessing over the roses in front of the Capitol’s south gate. He told the American-Statesman that his community is hurting and wants to see an end to the violence.
“We’re trying to fight for our democracy,” Nyene said.
Saturday was the deadliest day of protests against the coup, with some news outlets reporting that more than 100 people were killed by Myanmar’s security forces. It was also the country’s annual Armed Forces Day.
Although the exact death toll has not been determined, some estimate that more than 400 people — including children — have been slain since Feb. 1, when the military took over the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a landslide election in November, was detained. More than 3,000 protesters have been arrested for speaking out against the coup, reports say.
Organizers said Saturday’s rally was not led by any one group but was a collective effort of all of the Burmese communities in Texas that attended. More than 200 people attended a similar rally at the Capitol in February, organizers told the American-Statesman.
Many who are of Burmese or Myanmar descent in the United States came as refugees trying to escape past political turmoil in the country, including in the late 1980s and 2000s.
Hayley Man, a student at Austin Community College, said she helped start a local organization called the Myanmar Youth Advocate. Man, whose family moved to the U.S. under refugee status, said she hopes the rally inspires federal, state and local leaders to help raise awareness of the crisis.
“I think our people are going to do what they can to get their kids a life that they deserve, just a chance to live,” she said.
Khin Aung, who said she moved to the United States from Myanmar in 2010 to escape political violence, described the rally as part of a new movement started by Burmese communities in Texas in response to the junta.
Aung said the movement brings together people from many different ethnic groups with ties to Myanmar, including Chin, Karen, Kachin, Tedim and Burmese.
“We have to wake up again, so that the young generation can have an authentic democracy in Burma,” Aung said. “That’s why we have to move, we have to get up, and we have to stand up for our people.”
Stephen Yoe said he drove from Houston to be at the rally and added that the different groups that attended are planning more demonstrations to garner more public attention for Myanmar’s current crisis.
“What we can do is to protest like this and get the awareness out, and also we want to contact state representatives and members of Congress to push for measures against the current military government in Myanmar,” Yoe said.