Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country located in the Southeastern part of Asia. For the past several months, the Myanmar military has seized full control of the country’s government and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with hundreds of members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in what is known as a military coup. More specifically, the military has claimed that an election fraud took place; however, it has been revealed that there is no evidence of the military's claim of fraud.
On February 1st, 2021 the military declared a one year state of emergency. Despite that, it has now been extended to a two year state of emergency ultimately disclosing the military’s grip on power. Thousands of civilians have taken to the streets of Myanmar to protest against the injustices that the military has imposed on the country. This includes limiting technology communication, creating major food insecurity, carrying out night raids on civilians, and more.
With demonstrations of civil disobedience occurring everyday, many innocent lives have been lost as armed forces have taken extreme measures of violence to push down pro-democracy movements.
In support of the pro-democracy movement that is occurring in the country, an organization known as the Boston Free Burma Group has been hosting fundraisers and raising money in hopes of providing civilians in the country with essential supplies who are being impacted heavily from the violence enacted by the Myanmar military. On top of that, the organization has also donated money towards the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) which is a movement that shows the resistance of civil servants from many sectors across the country refusing to comply with the so-called military government.
One of the types of fundraisers that the Boston Free Burma Group has held has been hosting Burmese Food Festivals. Estelle D’Amico, one of the leaders of the organization, explained that there was major preparation that took place behind hosting the festival however, she felt that seeing many people attend the event from all over Boston gave her hope because she “felt the kindness in people who are willing to fight for [Myanmar],” even when what is happening in the country is not “physically affecting us.” In addition, D’Amico further expressed that she felt grateful for knowing that many people support the movement and that “there is a good chance we will win this fight if we keep up with this enthusiasm.”
Recently, on June 12th, the group held a food festival with 34 vendors and over 40 different items for sale ranging from Burmese traditional dishes to selling merchandise. The organization was able to raise a total of $22,000 including donations that were made.
Sai Kyaw, who is also another leader of the organization, stated that the main reason the organization holds the fundraisers is not only because of the money that is being raised, but also because the group “would like people to enjoy [Burmese] culture,” all the while learning about what is happening in the country. With Kyaw having been a student leader in the 1988 movement, he added how important it is for more people, especially the younger generation, to actively take part in the movement. He explained that with technology today and the impact of social media, Kyaw would like to “pass on the history to [the younger generation]” and allow them to “learn from previous times,” as he hopes that the younger generation will now lead them instead because “[they] are right behind them.”
On top of holding fundraisers, the group has also been holding protests every Saturday in front of the Massachusetts State House to further demonstrate against the injustices of the Myanmar military.
D’Amico emphasized how important it is to step out and speak up about the current situation of the country. Despite the group’s continuous efforts to spread awareness, she recognizes how there are still a lot of people who do not know what is happening in Myanmar.
She went into detail how “[she] grew up during the time [where] the world shut the door on [Myanmar],” and when she “finally had a chance to be on the other side of that door,” when she left the country, D’Amico expressed how “hardly anyone knew where it was.” As a result, “behind that closed door many suffered,” she said. Therefore, D’Amico believes that this is one of the reasons why “we cannot stop speaking up” because they must not “let the world shut the door on [Myanmar] again and forget about them.”
In the future, the Boston Free Burma Group plans on hosting more food fundraisers and are potentially expecting to hold a 5k run by co-hosting with Amnesty International. The organization hopes that by putting together these different events, they will contribute to restoring democracy in Myanmar and keeping the spirit of the revolution alive.