‘We’ve never had democracy’: Myanmar student says military coup leaves her home country feeling ‘like North Korea’

  • Myanmar student at Manchester Met speaks out about the military coup in her home country
  • Military seized power earlier this month following democratic elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party
  • She is worried for friends and relatives who are protesting on the streets for democracy

A Myanmar student based in Manchester has expressed concern for her country as a military coup sweeps the nation.

Lilly Oo, originally from Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – is a final year undergraduate studying fashion at MMU.

Speaking to the Northern Quota, Lilly has been raising awareness about the military coup and the growing counter-demonstrations against the army.

She said: “At the moment, people are protesting out on the streets in every city. Even in the city of Yangon, it’s already over one million protesters – and that’s just one city alone.

“However, we are praying that the police won’t become more brutal. In the capital city, a girl got shot – even though she was peacefully protesting. So, we’re hoping it won’t get worse.”

woman, sun, smiling, happy, myanmar
Lilly Oo (Photo: Lilly Oo)

Myanmar is in the grips of a military coup, following democratic elections in November 2020 won by the pro-democracy NLD party. The political wing of the army claims the election was rigged.

As a result, armed forces detained many prominent democratic politicians, including NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military has also seized all forms of communication and television went off air. Internet blackouts are becoming a common occurrence.

Lilly added: “Currently, all the news channels in Myanmar are shut down. Only the military news channel is available right now and, on that channel, they are showing nothing about the protesters on the streets”.

She believes that despite the elections taking place in Myanmar, democracy has still not been achieved.

“To be honest, we’ve never had true democracy in our country. Back in 2008, the military changed the constitution so that the military can still hold 25% of the seats in Parliament, so they are always involved with state affairs,” she said.

Large gatherings of protestors in Myanmar, expressing opposition to the government. (Photo: Lilly Oo)

Leading figures in the military have said that the coup will last for up to one year. However, Lilly says that whether it lasts the duration will depend on the army’s response to the demonstrations.

She said: “Currently, there is a civil disobedience movement and that’s really attacking military business right now – it’s the most effective way of taking them down.”

With internet and Wifi becoming ever more precious, Lilly said that it has been important to see her family and friends who are trapped in Myanmar.

She said: “I am able to speak with them, but the Wifi isn’t that good and all social media like Twitter and Messenger is banned, so people are using VPNs.

“We are basically like North Korea.”

The coup has been internationally condemned, with many Western powers such as the United States and the European Union expressing deep concern for the future of democracy in Myanmar.

Coronavirus restrictions in the UK has meant protests in Myanmar cannot be replicated; however, the Myanmar diaspora has been vocal in raising awareness of the conflict.