Politics

“He thought he was going to die”

Protestors in Perth gather against the coup. Photo: Daniel Lian.

Two months after the military coup in Myanmar garnered international headlines, migrant communities in Western Australia are still feeling its effects.

Thousands have gathered to protest outside WA’s Parliament since the country’s military junta seized power on February 1 this year, ousting democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since the putsch, a reported 500 peaceful protesters in Myanmar (formerly Burma) have reportedly been killed by the junta.

Two Australians are under house arrest and another is in custody.

Australian-born Gloria Kennedy co-founded Perth group Union of Myanmar.

She says both her parents were born in Myanmar and she fears for her family overseas.

Gloria has cousins, aunties and uncles in Myanmar. Photo: Gloria Kennedy.

“There are a lot of feelings of sadness, disappointment and guilt,” she says.

“It’s been tough for them. A lot of internet connection disruption. My family can’t study. My cousins aren’t able to study.

“There are a lot of bombings and attacks in their suburbs and in their towns, especially in the Karen state which is where my Dad’s side of the family is.’’

She’s calling for more practical help, not just condemnation, from Western governments and organisations to prevent more atrocities from happening.

“I know that my cousin, who lives in the Yangon, he actually got shot with a tear gas canister,” she says.

“He wasn’t able to see. He thought he was going to die.”

Three thousand people gathered outside the steps of WA’s Parliament on February 14 and another 500 gathered on March 1 in support of the civil disobedience movement against the junta.

Sandra Blackham is one of the organisers of Perth’s protest in support of the civil disobedience movement. Photo: Kenith Png.

Sandra Blackham from Perth-based community group Friends of Burma helped organise the Valentine’s Day march.

“It was a shock to all of us at first,” she says.

“At first, the legitimate Aung San Suu Kyi-led government said everything should be done via peaceful demonstration.”

Mrs Blackham is one of at least 8,700 Myanmar-born people living in Western Australia, according to figures from The Department of Home Affairs.

The figures mean WA is home to the second-largest population in the country behind Victoria.

Today marks two months since the Myanmar coup. Video: Kenith Png.

She’s among a sea of voices calling for more action from the Australian Government, having sent petitions to Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne.

“We have to support everybody that we can. We are prompting everybody to do whatever they can,” Ms Blackham says.

“We’re trying to raise funds, do the blessings, pray for them, pray for their safety.

“We have to support them, their families and the people who died. The families of the deceased,” she says.

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