Saskatoon Burmese community protest for democracy in Myanmar

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WATCH: Dozens of Burmese Canadians in Saskatoon have protested every week against the generals and the violence after the military in Myanmar staged a coup – Mar 27, 2021

On Feb. 1, Myanmar‘s military took over the country, also known as Burma.

Ever since, Burmese-Canadians have protested.

“It has been going for the eight weeks and this is very hard for us, for our country,” Su The said.

Read more: Canada’s defence chief to join allies in condemning Myanmar junta’s violence

The – pronounced “deh” – is one of the organizers. Every Saturday since Feb. 6, dozens gather outside Saskatoon’s City Hall for about 30 minutes — even when it’s -40 C.

They hold signs that say “return our elected government” and “shame on you dictator,” and they sing songs supporting Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy (NLD) party.

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They’re also calling on the Canadian government to do more.

The NLD won a massive majority in elections held last November with almost 400 seats, while the military secured just 33.

The military, which ruled the country from 1988 until 2015, declared the results illegitimate and staged a coup.

Besides a single, virtual court appearance, Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t been seen since.

She was once a champion of human rights. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2007, Canada bestowed her with honourary citizenship, a tribute only given to venerated human rights champions like Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.

Read more: More than 100 dead as protesters, Myanmar forces clash in deadliest day since coup

The Canadian government revoked Suu Kyi’s citizenship in 2018, shortly after it ruled the Myanmar military’s actions against the Rohingya minority constituted genocide.

Worse than silent during the crisis, in which more than a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape rape and murder, she defended the junta.

Canada imposed sanctions on the country then and did so again in response to the coup. But an analyst told Global News the new measures could have limited effects.

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“It’s kind of debatable to see whether or not the sanctions will cause that shift (towards democracy) for the military,” Julia Nguyen said.

Nguyen, a project coordinator with the Asia Pacific Foundation, said the military leaders are used to sanctions by now.

They’ve suffered them for years, and from a variety of countries.

Read more: Myanmar coup: What led to the military seizing power

She said the coup “is a bit of an ego” game for the military, given its dominance in the country was already enshrined in the constitution.

She says the length of the conflict will depend on foreign pressure, the amount of domestic economic pain the regime is willing to endure and whether the generals can accept the rule of Suu Kyi.

“Despite all the criticisms of her, there’s a lot of people who still support her — overwhelmingly support her,” Nguyen said, speaking to Global News via Zoom from Vancouver.

But Nguyen questioned whether Burmese-Canadians and the Burmese, who have demonstrated in the street almost every night since the coup, want the same things.

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She said Suu Kyi’s NLD had not done well in bringing the country’s many ethnic groups together, but that many are still feeling marginalized.

“I think the protestors (in Myanmar) are looking forward to a future that is really, radically different from what we had before the coup,” she said, referring to the influence of the military and the lack of inclusivity.

Read more: Myanmar must prevent genocide against Rohingya, UN top court rules

Standing outside Saskatoon’s City Hall, The said everyone gathered was Bamar Buddhist, the majority group within Myanmar.

She said everyone there strongly supported Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hours earlier, Myanmar had suffered its deadliest violence yet in the current conflict, with more than one hundred people dying in the ongoing protests.

“I just don’t feel right at all. It was very painful,” The said.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said “Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the military’s use of force against protestors…”

“Canada and its international partners are watching, and those responsible will be held to account.”

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The said she and her fellow demonstrators will keep demonstrating until democracy returns to Myanmar.

With files from Emerald Bensadoun, the Associated Press and Reuters.

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