More than 76 people attended “What’s happening in Myanmar,” a panel hosted by the Cal Poly’s Burmese Student’s Association (BurSA) and the International Center on April 16. The purpose of the panel was to raise awareness about what is happening in Myanmar during the Military coup, and what people can do to help.
History professor Margaret Bodemer explained the history of civil unrest in Myanmar, and the parallels between the 8888 uprising that happened in August, 8 1988 and now. Both were movements led by students and suppressed by the military, according to Bodemer.
Bodemer said that since the military has a history of suppressing people’s voices in the past, they are using the same strategy that they are now.
“They [the military] already have a playbook for how to play this,” Bodemer said. “If we stop seeing news, that’s a bad sign.”
A Cal Poly student who is in Myanmar now, shared about her experiences since February 1. She described how her mother was crying when she heard the news about the coup because her mother had experienced the same revolution as a student in 1988. This student is anonymous to protect her identity from the Burmese military.
The student said that despite COVID-19 being an issue, “the military is scarier than COVID-19.” Since Feb. 1, 2021, the military has killed more than 700 people.
Student panelist and architecture junior Eiei Chaw Swe said that the goal of the protests is to get the attention of the United Nations with the hope that they will intervene.
Swe described the different unique ways citizens of Myanmar have been spreading the word through protests such as the flower strike and the Easter egg strike, both of which used social media to spread awareness about the coup in Myanmar.
All of the students have family in Myanmar and are concerned for their safety.
“There’s no reliable source,” panelist and computer science sophomore Sophia Hsuan said. “We’re just always in a constant state of worry for our friends and family back home.”
Panelist and computer science junior Eddie Aung shared that his uncle is currently in hiding from the military because of his political ties and no one in Aung’s family knows where his uncle is.
Civil engineering junior May Thiri Kyaw shared her own experience growing up in Myanmar and how she had not realized how oppressive the military was.
“If you aren’t used to having the freedom of speech, you don’t really know what you’re missing out on,” Kyaw said.
Thriri also explained that the Civil Disobedience Movement is a form of passive resistance that citizens of Myanmar are taking part in by withdrawing money from government banks and boycotting military businesses.
Hsuan said that it was impactful seeing how many people showed up to the panel.
“It kinda felt like we finally got the word out to more people in Cal Poly beyond our immediate friends,” Hsaun said. “People might understand how bad it is now.”