Myanmar Youth Protests and Activism in Melbourne
from a representative of Victoria Myanmar Youth
Following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1st, we have witnessed some of the worst human rights abuses in the 21st century, blatantly committed right before the eyes of the world.
As members of the diaspora and international student communities here in Australia, we may be physically far from home, but our hearts are together with our people in Myanmar.
The youth in Melbourne have been protesting in solidarity since February 2nd, the day after the coup. We've been creative and mindful with our approach to try as much as possible to gain the sympathy and support of the local Australian community.
We've marched on the streets of Melbourne, where there were thousands of bystanders who would otherwise not have known what's happening in Myanmar.
We stood in silence in blood-stained clothes to showcase the kind of human rights abuses that are ongoing in Myanmar. We’ve raised our voices so that the international community is aware of the injustices happening in our country and so that the Australian government will do more to support the people of Myanmar.
Youth activist Kaung Myat Phone (Jack PH) from Victorian Myanmar Youth says that he believes that human rights is for everyone. “We have lived many years without human rights [under military dictatorship]. We have had a taste of freedom and what we can do with freedom. We did not have to live with fear. But there were no human rights in our ethnic states like Kachin or Chin states. There's a lot of corruption and we have no freedom. That’s why this time Gen Z, including us, are fighting for freedom for our country. For this generation and future generations. We have to win.”
There are many others like him across Australia, who have in various ways tried to support people in Myanmar from afar, whether through protests, fundraisers, or activism targeting Australian government authorities.
The Silent Protest was the first event that we as Victoria Myanmar Youth organised as a team. It took place on February 28 2021, in front of the Victoria State Library (see photo). As representatives of Victorian Myanmar Youth, we also had an opportunity to meet a Federal Member of Parliament of Australia. We also held an Eat Food, Reject the Coup food-fair fundraising event (see photo) – and through this event, we managed to raise a lot of funds for the Civil Disobedience Movement, Internally Displaced Persons and other communities in need in Myanmar. Then, for the Global Myanmar Spring Revolution Day on May 1st 2021, we marched from Federation Square to the Parliament House of Victoria.
Why are we doing all this?
We believe that we should fight for our generation and future generations in Myanmar. For far too long, injustice has happened at our doorsteps. Our parents, our grandparents and great-grandparents suffered at the hands of the power-hungry and despotic regimes.
Now is the time for us to break this vicious cycle – to stop the suffering of our people, the conflict, the fear of losing loved ones, the displacement from ancestral lands.
For far too long we have suffocated. And as Martin Luther King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". So no matter where we are, or who we are, we must not tolerate injustice.
One thing that I have learned is that, if we don't act, no one will. It is not the duty of others. It is our duty. Being on the side of what is right, being against evil, can be tough but we must be determined and fight for what we believe in.
A former All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) soldier, U Min Thu Ra Win once told me, "We don’t go into battles if we think we will lose. We must not be afraid to die, but be strategic to survive." The strategy is to live and fight until we win. The former resistance soldier has escaped death multiple times, and he has a point.
“We must win,” is the motto we have to go with. The alternative is not an option. And I sincerely believe that we will win. Our Gen Z have an unbeatable fighting spirit. Our generation is fighting to win. We need guidance, resources and continued support to fight in this Spring Revolution – both on the short-term as well as the longer-term if needs be. But giving up is simply not an option.
Youth activist Julia could not have worded it better: “We are stronger together as one. Regardless of generation, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of where we are from, it is important that we unite and come together as one and keep continuing to fight because we will win this.”