AUCKLAND, New Zealand — “Military rule, down, down!” chanted 200 Burmese refugees, students and others here Feb. 5, protesting the Myanmar military’s ousting of the elected government and reimposition of direct rule four days earlier.
Many wore the red shirts of the National League for Democracy. This party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the election by a landslide last year, as it did in 2015 when the first elected parliament in more than 50 years was established.
“Myanmar communities in New Zealand strongly condemn the illegal actions of the army’s seizure,” Tinmama Oo, with microphone, said on behalf of the organizing groups, the Burma Campaign in New Zealand and the Anti-Myanmar Military Coup Movement.
Some 6,000 people from Myanmar live in New Zealand. “Most of the first wave of refugees were victims” of the military’s crackdown against a widespread rebellion in 1987-88, said Oo.
“We all are in this together,” said Kyaw Hla, who spoke as a representative of Rohingya, a Muslim nationality in Myanmar. A number have settled here, driven from their homes in Rakhine state by brutal military-led assaults.
Some Rohingya had hesitated to join the protest, participants told the Militant, because Suu Kyi and her party have refused to oppose the military offensive. Shamsul Saa Yu, secretary of the Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation, said the Feb. 1 coup “places Rohingya in a very vulnerable position.” Under the National League for Democracy, he said, “things were a bit more open than under the military regime.”
Speakers from Amnesty International and the Communist League were given warm receptions. Speaking for the CL, this author said working people in New Zealand and around the world should speak out against the coup: “The military acted because it fears working people, and the likelihood that they will take the elections as encouragement to push their own interests forward.”
Four days later some 100 Myanmar protesters from around the country rallied at Parliament to oppose the military takeover.