While the Dallas Burmese community may be thousands of miles away from Burma, they are using their collective voice to unite and encourage international action and support.
Dallas, Texas is home to the second largest Burmese American population in the United States. Burma, also known as Myanmar, has fallen back under an oppressive military regime that assumed power on Feb. 1 by form of a military coup. Since then, the country has faced horrific threats to human freedom, livelihood, and democracy. Over 200 people have been killed as protests continue to mount and the people of Burma raise their voices to rise up against the actions of the military.
While the Dallas Burmese community may be thousands of miles away from Burma, they are using their collective voice to unite and encourage international action and support. Burma’s situation is not only important to them, it is deeply personal. Together, they hope to encourage the United States, and the international community, that what is happening to Burma’s democracy does and should matter to us both at home and abroad.
Salai Lian is a Burmese translator, community activist, and a recipient of the 2021 Spirit of Lewisville Award. He also has parents, siblings, and friends living in Burma, and he fears for their safety and future.
“I started seeing videos that showed how brutal and heartless the military regime was at killing protesters and beating them with their guns,” he said. “It broke my heart. There was no word to describe their inhumane acts.”
In just under two months, the military coup has assumed power, silenced free speech, limited internet connectivity, and committed countless human rights atrocities. Young people, both in Burma and in the United States, are actively organizing and leading protests against the military’s action.
Olivia Tawi has been instrumental in spreading awareness and rallying the Dallas Burmese community in solidarity for Burma. Oppressive military rule is not new to the country, but her observation of what is unfolding today is stunning.
“My friend was just four years old when she went to my first protest in Washington, DC yelling ‘free Burma,’” Olivia said. “She emphasized that it is 20 years later and we’re out here still protesting for the same reason! And our parents have been protesting and fighting for democracy their whole lives. Let this sink in.”
Continued support and awareness is necessary for the people of Burma in order to return to a democratic state. The miles that separate us should not hinder us to stand up for our shared humanity. The Dallas Burmese community will not stop raising their voices, and neither will the Bush Institute.
“Until the military returns power back to elected civilians or the military regime is brought down, I will continue speaking up for my home country and people in any way that I can,” Salai Lian said. “Because I know speaking out for them or doing something that I can for them in this time means a lot to them. And Myanmar people absolutely deserve democracy and freedom.”