Myanmar beauty pageant contestant Han Lay has sought international help for her country and drew military junta’s ire.

Her speech at the Miss Grand International 2020 event in Thailand and her street protest in Yangon have put her on the military radar and she has decided to stay in Thailand for at least three months.

Han Lay made headlines when she spoke out last week against alleged atrocities committed by her country’s military.

“Today in my country Myanmar … there are so many people dying,” she said at the Miss Grand International 2020 event in Thailand. “Please help Myanmar. We need your urgent international help right now.”

A little over a month ago, Han Lay, 22, was on the streets of Yangon protesting against the military.

The unrest in Myanmar began on February 1 when the military toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on unsubstantiated charges of fraud in November 2020 election which ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.

Military used force when it failed to stop nationwide protests against the coup, and according to monitoring groups and local media, killed 564 people till Sunday.

Han Lay, center, protesting against military on a Yangon road.

Han Lay, a psychology student at the University of Yangon, decided to use the pageant as a platform to speak out about her homeland on an international stage.

“In Myanmar, journalists are detained … so I decided to speak out,” she said in her interview to a British media outlet by phone from Bangkok.

She expressed her concern that her two-minute speech could have put her on the radar of the military and said she had decided to stay put in Thailand for at least the next three months.

Han Lay said she knew before she left for Thailand that she would be potentially putting herself at risk and would need to stay there for a while.

“I am so worried about my family and my security because I spoke out a lot about the military and the situation in Myanmar. In Myanmar everyone knows there are limits on speaking out about what is happening,” she said.

“My friends told me to not come back to Myanmar.”

Her fears are not unfounded. Security forces issued arrest warrants last week for 18 celebrities, social media “influencers” and two journalists under a law against material “intended to cause a member of the armed forces to mutiny or disregard their duty”, state media reported. All of them had spoken out against the coup.

STREET SITUATION: Meanwhile, forces in Myanmar have killed 564 people since military coup, a civil society organisation working to secure the release of political prisoners confirmed on Monday.

In a written statement, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said it had documented seven additional deaths across the Southeast Asian country on Sunday.

“As of April 4, a total of 2,667 people are under detention, while 38 of them are sentenced. As many as 425 have been issued arrest warrants,” said the rights group.

Forces continue their crackdown on peaceful protests. In Mandalay city, they destroyed protestors’ barricades, as well as grocery stores.

The office of a junta-appointed local administrator was set alight on Sunday in the North Kyun Taw Quarter of Sanchaung township in Yangon.


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