Taiwan's Myanmar community denounces coup with defiant songs

Ben Blanchard
·2-min read
Members of the Burmese community in Taipei protest against the Myanmar military coup in Little Burma, home to many of Taiwan's Burmese immigrants, in Taipei

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Hundreds of people from Taiwan's Myanmar community rallied in central Taipei on Sunday to denounce the coup there, singing defiant songs and holding white and red roses in mourning for those who have died protesting the military.

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, then called Burma, at the end of China's civil war in 1949. Others have come more recently, fleeing repression and anti-Chinese sentiment.

Dressed in white, the colour of mourning, holding pictures of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi and signs condemning the coup, around 400 people protested at Taipei's Liberty Square, mainly Sino-Burmese but also non-Chinese Myanmar citizens, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers.

"People in Myanmar are once again forced to live under the dark shadow of the military regime. As an emigrant from Myanmar, today we gather here to pay tribute to our fellow countrymen and those fallen heroes," Yangon-born Thomas Chen, 28, a teacher of Burmese at Taipei's Soochow University, told the crowd.

People 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 of the time, and bowed their heads in prayer to remember the dead.

Hung Sun-han, a lawmaker for Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, criticised China for supporting the coup. Beijing denies this, though many people in Myanmar view China as supporting the junta that seized power on Feb. 1.

"We know that behind this military coup there are forces from Chinese Communist. This is the thing that people can't stand the most," Hung told protesters.

Last Sunday saw arson attacks against 32 Chinese-invested companies in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya, though demonstrators in Taipei who spoke to Reuters played down fears of wider anti-Chinese feelings.

"Many ethnic Chinese are on the streets protesting against the coup," said Wei Lin, who lived through anti-Chinese riots in Yangon in 1967. "People know how to distinguish between Chinese-Burmese and the Chinese government."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)