Many of you might wonder how an eighth generational Vermonter could possibly have a connection with Burma; also known as Myanmar. Nearly a decade ago our son, Wesley, introduced us to a lovely young lady, May Oo Khiang, from Bago, Burma. Her jet-black hair and blacker eyes made her difficult to read. That she spoke very little English didn’t help matters much.
She had not been in our home for more than a few minutes when I noticed she was in our kitchen going through the refrigerator. I just assumed she was hungry and I was amused that she already felt comfortable to raid the refrigerator. Minutes later she was chopping up vegetables with lightning speed. Seriously, the knife she was using was a blur. Every piece she cut was exactly the same thickness. Watching May use a knife is hypnotic.
I approached her and told her that she was a guest in our home and did not have to make us a meal. What I got in return was a look from those black eyes that caused me to stop. I don’t back down easily, but I was backing down now. With her left hand she made a flicking motion making it clear that I was to leave the kitchen.
I went into our living room and said to my son that his lady friend appeared to be preparing to make a meal and that I had just been shushed out of my own kitchen. Wes wisely suggested that I get out of her way.
Since that first encounter these two kids now have two kids of their own, a dog and a restaurant. May’s lifelong dream to own her own restaurant came true nearly three years ago when she and Wes opened MOONWINK in Manchester; Vermont’s only authentic Burmese restaurant. Through her cooking skills (she learned to cook from her grandmother who taught her to make food with love) she has not only introduced our family to wonderful food, but also to Burma. A year ago we all went to Burma to meet her family and see her country. May is now an American citizen.
Burma is a diverse, majestic country with thousands of ancient Pagodas. The people are friendly and the scenery otherworldly. However, the country is ruled by the heavy, corrupt hand of the military. In their recent election the military lost all support from the people. The military’s solution was to lock up their opponents. Peaceful protests are now underway. The following was written by May and Wes to better help you to realize what is happening in this far away land:
“In the early hours of February 1, 2021, the people of Myanmar (Burma) were transported back in time to August 8, 1988, the date that marked the beginning of the People’s Power Uprising. The People’s Power Uprising was an inclusive and far-reaching demonstration of civil disobedience in which citizens fought against autocratic rule and demanded their democratic rights and freedoms. The movement was instigated by students in the capitol city of Yangon. who were protesting against the Burma Socialist Programme Party, which imposed a totalitarian military dictatorship on the country from the year 1962 to 1988. Hundreds of thousands of Myanmar citizens subsequently joined the movement. Calls for democracy and freedom were met with violent retaliation from the military-run government, resulting in thousands of innocent civilians being beaten, detained, and killed.
On November 8, 2020, Myanmar held general elections that resulted in 61% of the seats parliament being awarded to National League of Democracy candidates, easily beating the military-run Union Solidarity and Development Party by a landslide. These election results were accepted and celebrated throughout the country, and the newly elected officials were set to take office on 2/1/2021. But this never happened. The Myanmar military, headed by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, forcibly seized power and detained President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, among many other high ranking officials. These democratically elected leaders were detained based on false claims of election fraud, of which there was no evidence. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with the “criminal” offense of having unauthorized walkie talkies on her property.
Since the detention on its democratically elected leaders on 2/1/21, the people of Myanmar have bonded together in solidarity to protest of this forceful takeover. Mass protests are held every day throughout the country, including the pounding of metal pails and drums in a ceremony that was once a tradition practice to drive out evil spirits. The symbolism is clear. The people wish to drive out the illegitimate oppressors who have once again illegally taken over their government. The civil disobedience movement began immediately after the takeover, and demonstrations continue each and every day. In response, the military has suspended all social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The military does not want the world to know what is happening.
The United States, EU, UNSC and many others have denounced this coup and have contemplated sanctions on the country’s leadership. We are encouraged by the strong statement of condemnation from the White House, but we are aware that the Myanmar army will not yield its power easily. We ask for the strongest possible sanctions and other measures against this military dictatorship. We ask for America’s support in restoring our treasured democracy.”
Since this was written President Biden has proposed sanctions against the military. We ask that you help keep up the pressure.