Appetite for change: Myanmar students extend Central London hunger strike

Photo: Chan Mya Soe / Courtesy
Photo: Chan Mya Soe / Courtesy

Far from Naypyidaw, three students have huddled in Central London beside the River Thames holding signs supporting Myanmar’s newly formed National Unity Government and a banner that reads, “Myanmar military is a terrorist organisation, stop backing terrorist.”

The students yesterday extended their hunger strike into a fourth day to pressure the UK Foreign Office to take immediate action against Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, nearly three months after it seized power and began a bloody crackdown to quash dissent.

“We are demanding the UK Home Secretary designate the Tatmadaw as a terrorist organization under the Terrorism Act 2000 and provide temporary visa protections for Myanmar citizens who are unable to return to the country due to the current situation,” hunger striker Kyaw Min Han, president of the Myanmar Student Union United Kingdom and Eire, told Coconuts Yangon.

They’re also seeking protections for Myanmar nationals overseas who face difficulty returning home.

After winning the support of their peers back home, the students said they would continue the hunger strike beyond its originally scheduled three days. In that time, members of the Myanmar community and UK citizens have shown up to support the three young men sitting in front of the St. Thomas Hospital.

The union, an umbrella organization of Myanmar student unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, announced the hunger strike after sending two letters petitioning the UK Home Office to take action against the junta.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the interim shadow government formed by deposed parliamentarians currently in hiding, designated the Tatmadaw as a terrorist organization on March 1.

Academics, rights organizations and observers have made similar claims against the junta in recent weeks.

Carleton University political science professor and 88 student activist Tun Myint called the Tatmadaw, “the world’s largest terrorist organization” in a Monday panel discussion of the situation as part of a benefit event for Mutual Aid Myanmar.

Earlier this month, a showdown took place at the Myanmar’s London embassy, where its military attache had seized control of the building. UK officials responded by granting temporary shelter to Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn.

The military’s brutal response to peaceful protesters opposing its takeover has killed more than 700 people and taken more than 4,000 into arbitrary detention, including and targeted nighttime raids.

Han said the hunger strike is a nonviolent and effective way to draw attention to what is happening in Myanmar.

“Whatever happens to us, even if we go hungry, what is happening in the country is worse,” he said, adding in a later message to the pro-democracy movement: “We are fighting where we can.” 


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