“Everything went so fast and I only have a few items of clothing,” she told the broadcaster before she left for Canada. But, she said, “I have spoken out for Myanmar everywhere. Since Canada is a safe place for me, I have more opportunities to speak out on the issue.”
Han Lay first gained global attention last year when she used her time on stage to speak out against Myanmar’s military rulers at the Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Thailand.
At the time, the junta known as the Tatmadaw had just seized power and there were anti-military protests. The army and police confronted the protesters with deadly force. On a particularly bloody day, March 27, security forces killed more than 160 protesters.
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That same day, Han Lay stood on a stage in Bangkok, dressed in a traditional white dress, as one of the 20 finalists in the pageant.
“Today in my country, Myanmar, as I stand on this podium, so many people are dying; more than 100 people died today,” she told the audience and cameras, wiping the tears away. “I am very sorry for all the people who have lost their lives.”
“Every citizen of the world wants the prosperity of his country and the peaceful environment,” she added. “The leaders involved should not use their power and selfishness in doing so.”
The speech put Han Lay in the spotlight and also sparked condemnations and threats on social media, she said. After the election, she remained in Thailand to avoid possible arrest in her home country, where thousands have been injured or killed since the military takeover. Thousands more are in prison and in July the military junta executed four pro-democracy activists, including two of the resistance’s most prominent leaders.
But on September 21, after a short trip to Vietnam, Han Lay was refused entry at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Thai officials said her Myanmar-issued travel documents were invalid, Reuters reported. She wrote on Facebook the next day that Myanmar police were also at the airport and had tried to contact her.
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“I will refuse to meet the Myanmar police using my human right,” she wrote, adding that she had asked the Thai authorities and the United Nations for help.
According to Human Rights Watch, the move was “a deliberate political act by the junta to render it stateless”.
“There is no doubt that what happened was a trap to try to force Han Lay to return to Myanmar, where she would be immediately arrested, probably abused in detention and imprisonment,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director. in a statement. a statement on Wednesday.
He said governments should “be wary” of attempts by Myanmar’s military junta to “use similar tactics against foreign dissidents traveling with Myanmar passports in the future”.
“This is not the first time repressive Burmese military dictatorships have attempted to use their control over Myanmar’s passports as a weapon against their own people’s rights to travel internationally,” Robertson said.