Hundreds of people from Taiwan’s large Sino-Burmese community rallied in a Taipei suburb today to denounce the coup in Myanmar and express their support for detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Taiwan is home to around 40,000 people originally from Myanmar, most of whom are ethnic Chinese. Some are descendents of Nationalist troops trapped in Myanmar at the end of China’s civil war in 1949 and others have come more recently, fleeing repression and anti-Chinese sentiment.
Dressed in red, the colour of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, holding pictures of her and signs in Chinese, English and Burmese condemning the coup, around 300 people marched down the streets around Taipei’s Little Burma.
Finishing up in a plaza outside an apartment block they sang We Won’t Be Satisfied Until The End Of The World, the Burmese language anthem from the country’s 1988 pro-democracy uprising, brutally put down by the military government.
Ko Ko Thu, 54, who fled to Taiwan after those protests were suppressed and helped organise the rally, told Reuters he took inspiration from democratic Taiwan.
“Taiwan is a very democratic country. I hope that in the future, even if I am dead, that Myanmar can be democratic like Taiwan,” added Ko Ko Thu, who unlike most the other participants is not ethnically Chinese.
Ethnic Chinese in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, have historically faced discrimination, especially under the rule of General Ne Win who seized power in 1962.
He barred ethnic Chinese and other foreigners from owning land, banned Chinese-language education and stoked anti-Chinese violence. Bloody anti-Chinese riots erupted in 1967.
Yee, an ethnic Chinese woman who asked to be identified by her Burmese name, also came to Taiwan after the 1988 protests, and said it was important to show their opposition to the coup.
“We have had more than 30 years of repression from the military government. We don’t want to go back to that,” she said.