Voice of the people

Voice of Myanmar: Han Lay in Bangkok. — Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR: Miss Grand Myanmar Han Lay, who has become an international sensation for speaking up against the military junta, says her activism is just the beginning.

“I will continue to be the voice of the people of Myanmar as I consider this my responsibility.

“I will use the international platform as well as social media to reach out to the international community, ” she said.

The lanky beauty queen has already risked arrests for taking part in street protests since February before she left for Bangkok last month.

As a celebrity, her open defiance attracted a huge following and, unfortunately, the army as well.

Now, there is no turning back as Han Lay would be arrested if she steps foot in her country again.

It means not being able to see her family and friends again but it’s a price she has paid for standing up against the military.

She had not been contacted by the army although it had purportedly drawn up a blacklist of 18 celebrities, including social influencers and journalists.

But Han Lay reportedly said she had been on the receiving end of threatening comments on her social media accounts including threats of imprisonment.

Taking a short break, while on a tight work schedule in Phuket, Thailand, Han Lay spoke to The Star online about her plans.

She has now decided to take her campaign to another level by using social media platforms and reaching out to the international media to apply pressure on Myanmar.

“I am grateful that the international community has now sat up and taken notice of Myanmar, ” she said.

Speaking in flawless English, Han Lay also posted a video of herself, taking on all the questions posed to her, confidently.

The 22-year-old model, who is also a University of Yangon student, said the Miss Grand International contest had served as a good platform for her to speak up.

She said she would use every opportunity to share with the world what was taking place in her country.

Following her speech at the pageant, Han Lay said she had now sought to be a refugee in Thailand, adding that the organisers were also helping her to remain in the country.

In her emotional speech, the teary-eyed psychology student said: “While I am going to be on this stage, there are many people dying, more than 100 people died today (March 27). I am deeply sorry for all the people who have lost their lives.”

Han Lay appealed for international help, saying “the people from Myanmar are working on the streets for democracy”.

“I am safe here (in Thailand). Whether I will be a refugee or not, I will live in Thailand and continue to work with the Miss Grand International, ” she added.

Han Lay said she had met many of her fellow citizens who live in Thailand, saying they had been encouraging her to continue advocating for Myanmar.

“Thanks to social media, I am now able to reach out to more people and tell them about Myanmar.”She said she had been using her Instagram account to advocate for change in Myanmar since Feb 1, as well as appealing for donations for the cause.

Besides pictures of her modelling work, her IG has many pictures of her protests.

Han Lay, who enjoys celebrity status and is a well-known social media influencer, has reached out to over 50,000 followers, mostly young people via her messages.

Her IG is filled with pictures and video of street protests, where she was in, as well as pictures of Myanmar politician, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since her recent international exposure, the media has tried to find out more about the beauty queen activist.

Although she has won many beauty titles, Han Lay has said that she preferred to be known for her intelligence and confidence.

Han Lay, whose real name is Thaw Nanda Aung, has become the second most high-profile person to speak up since Kyaw Moe Tun, the Myanmar permanent representative to the United Nations, in March.

He was fired by the military junta for speaking up against the military at the UN.

For Han Lay, her parting words in the interview were “I owe it to the people of Myanmar to speak up for them”.

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