Thousands of miles away from Stanton across the Pacific Ocean, Burmese people are being snatched up in the night by a brutal military regime.
They’re being beaten, shot dead and slaughtered in the streets as they demand democracy, freedom and justice after the military overthrew and detained a civilian Burmese government earlier this year.
The atrocities hit close to home for some in Orange County and in Los Angeles – especially the Burmese American community – who watch in worry as the number of dead bodies pile up over there for the freedoms they have here in the U.S.
“They put martial law and they’re shooting people. There’s about more than 600 people that have been killed throughout Burma,” said Banny Hong, the owner of Taste of Burma restaurant in Stanton on Friday.
“They arrest. They torture. There’s a lot of dead bodies.”
Hong organized a rally at Stanton city hall today with help from Republican Mayor David Shawver to bring awareness to the vicious military crackdown on peaceful protesters, activists and civilians willing to die for democracy in Burma – a struggle that has been going on for decades.
The country was renamed Myanmar by the military in the late 80s following the killing of thousands who protested for democracy.
Hong and other Orange County residents like Sonny Wynn have called on elected officials to help the Burmese people in their fight for democracy.
“Even if we are outside of Burma, our minds are always flying back to our country, especially in this situation,” Wynn said in a phone interview after the rally.
Wynn said the military has taken control of the economy and is calling on the world to stop business with Burma until a new government is in place.
“Don’t give the business to the military government. We need to cut their oxygen line,” he said.
Orange County Elected Officials Call Out Military Regime
Shawver said democracy in Burma must be restored.
“There have been too many lives lost and families destroyed. It is our responsibility for all of us to protect human rights of the people around the world,” he said.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a House resolution HRes 134, which condemned the coup and HR 1122, legislation which sets up a framework for a State Department report on the coup as well as plans to seek consequences for the perpetrators.
All Orange County Congressmembers voted in favor of condemning the coup including Congressman Lou Correa from Santa Ana.
In an interview before the rally Correa said if the U.S. military didn’t pledge to follow civil authorities “We’d have Myanmar today” here following the Capitol attacks.
“Those people that are fighting for democracy need to see that we here in America care, that we are watching and the only way the military there will listen is if we make them listen,” he said. “Our message to these dictators is we are not going to look the other way.”
“We are watching.”
Correa also spoke at the rally along with a couple of Orange County City Council members. A representative spoke on behalf of Congresswoman Young Kim .
“The actions taken by the Tatmadaw in overthrowing the democratically elected government, cracking down on peaceful protesters, and killing dozens if not hundreds of its own people on the streets is deplorable, horrific and wrong,” the representative said reading a statement from Kim.
Burmese Americans Stand in Solidarity With the Fight for Democracy
A huge crowd of people from places as far as San Francisco came out to show their support for the protesters. Many holding signs condemning the military and wearing red in honor of the National League of Democracy – the ruling political party in Burma that was ousted by the military last month.
The crowds sang Burmese revolutionary songs and chanted for democracy raising three fingers in the air symbolizing justice equality and freedom. Religious leaders lead a prayer for the country.
Speakers called the Myanmar Military terrorists.
“They have been using submachine guns,” said Dr. Kyaw Moe, from the Burmese American Medical Association who spoke at the rally.
“(It’s) as if they have been fighting against another Armed Forces like they have been fighting against Al Qaeda or ISIS or Taliban forces.”
“They are fighting peaceful protesters.”
Moe shared the history of the struggle and fight for democracy in the South East Asian country and how time and time again the military responded with extreme violence.
He added that tens of millions have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the coup and describe the brutal military retaliation including pouring acid down the mouths of people.
UCLA Student Thet Lin Tun, President of the Burmese Student Association as his school echoed his sentiments.
“The youth of Myanmar are united as one against the inhumane military terrorists,” he said, receiving a loud cheer from the crowd.
Lin Tun said that youth should be cramming for exams, hanging out with friends, supporting their parents and to laugh and enjoy life.
“Instead they’re on the frontlines spending every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears to protect and save their country and their future. They’re coming up with all sorts of creative tactics to resist the Myanmar military terrorists, refusing to bend to the terrorists’ illegitimate rule.
They are arrested, injured, tortured, killed, and defiled, for fighting for their freedoms and basic human rights, determined not to let the military take them all away again,” he said.
The crowd cheered again.
“We need the support and solidarity of the international community to do everything in their power to support us and to make sure that we are not alone in our struggle for democracy,” Lin Tun said.
Hong said on Friday that Generation Z is leading the charge for democracy.
“They know democracy, they know freedom and they can’t stand the coup,” Hong said.
He added that Americans and Burmese people believe in some of the same values.
“Even though it’s a different country we believe in the same democracy and freedom.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.