Myanmar diaspora in Ottawa shocked and angered by military coup

Members of Canadian Burmese community went down to the Myanmar Embassy in Ottawa Monday afternoon, looking for answers as that country's democratically-elected government fell to a military coup. 

Some in Ottawa's Burmese community say they want Canada to do more to restore elected government in Myanmar

A small group of people from the Burmese diaspora gathered outside the Myanmar embassy in Ottawa Monday to protest against the military coup in that country. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Toe Kyi went down to the Myanmar embassy in Ottawa Monday afternoon, along with a handful of other members of the diaspora, to condemn the military coup unfolding in that country.

Someone recorded on a cellphone in the freezing cold as Kyi spoke into the camera in Burmese for a social media post. He held a poster with an image of the ousted leader of the country's democratically elected government, Aung San Suu Kyi, with the embassy behind him as a backdrop.

"I'm just so angry," he told CBC News in English. 

Kyi explained he wants the people of Myanmar, also known as Burma, to know they are not alone: "We are using our liberty to stand up for the people inside Burma."

The Southeast Asian country's military seized power on Monday in a coup and detained Suu Kyi, whose party recently won in a landslide election.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who spent over a decade under house arrest before becoming state counsellor in 2016, was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids.

Toe Kyi, centre, speaks on social media in front of the Myanmar embassy on Island Park Rd., to show solidarity with the people of Myanmar. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

"Canada is deeply concerned by the Myanmar military's recent actions, which jeopardize the peaceful process of democratic transition," Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.

Min Min Aung, an Ottawa resident also gathered outside the embassy Monday, said members of the local Burmese community want to see Canada do more than just put out a statement.

"It's not much," said Aung

Aung worries that protestors who speak out inside the country face certain violence if the international community doesn't act.

"It's a hopeless situation, and we hope [the Canadian government] at least brings some pressure," Aung said.

Fall from grace

The group acknowledges Suu Kyi has faced harsh criticism from the international community for the military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the country's west. 

With Myanmar facing accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Toe Kyi said he worries the world may be turning its back on the country as its fragile democracy starts to unravel.   

"The only image that they have of Myanmar is genocide," said Kyi.

Kyi said the negative reaction from fellow Canadians in the comment section of online stories about the coup "broke my heart."

WATCH | Ottawa advocate 'disturbed' by military coup in Myanmar 

Ottawa advocate ‘disturbed’ by military coup in Myanmar

2 years ago
Duration 1:01
Tin Maung Htoo, who headed a group called Canadian Friends of Burma (also called Myanmar), says he was not expecting to hear of a military coup in the country and was dismayed when he heard the news.

Ottawa used to be home to the Canadian Friends of Burma, an advocacy group that worked for the democratization of Myanmar for close to 20 years. The former head of the group, Tin Maung Htoo, said it disbanded a few years ago when members thought their objectives had been achieved after Suu Kyi came to power. 

He said news of the coup has taken the Burmese community by surprise. 

"I couldn't even sleep. I was pretty shocked," he said.

Htoo said, like Kyi, he'd spent his life since the age of 16 fighting for freedom in that country, but could only watch over social media as the situation turned for the worse this week.

"I was very, very disturbed and disappointed. I feel like I'm powerless," he said.

Now, Kyi said family members in the country are reporting that access to the internet has been limited. Kye said accurate information coming out of the country is going to become more difficult to find. 

Kyi said while he he has not given up hope, he and other members of the diaspora would like to see Canada call on the Myanmar embassy in Ottawa to send a message to the military demanding the elected government be restored.


  • An earlier version of this story said Suu Kyi was detained days after her party won in a landslide election. In fact, that election took place in November.
    Feb 02, 2021 1:57 PM ET

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