Pageant speeches rarely make headlines.
But when Han Lay, Miss Greater Myanmar, gave a speech last week about the atrocities alleged by the country’s military, her speech attracted attention.
She said at the 2020 Miss International Contest held in Thailand: “Too many people died in Myanmar today…” “Please help Myanmar. We need your urgent international help now.”
More than a month ago, 22-year-old Han Lay (Han Lay) protested against soldiers on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
The unrest in Myanmar began two months ago when the army seized control of the country and cancelled the democratic elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi̵
When thousands of people took to the streets of the country to protest the coup, the military used water cannons to disperse them. A week later, the reaction escalated to rubber bullets and then live ammunition.
The deadliest day of the conflict was last Saturday, when more than 100 people were killed. A local monitoring team estimated that the overall death toll exceeded 500. According to Save the Children, 43 of the victims were children.
Han Lay, a student of the Department of Psychology at Yangon University, decided to use the beauty pageant as a platform to speak out for his homeland on the international stage.
She told the BBC in a telephone interview in Bangkok: “In Myanmar, journalists have been detained…so I decided to speak up.”
Now, she is worried that her two-minute speech might make her a military radar. She said that she has decided to stay in Thailand for at least the next three months.
Han Lay said that before she went to Thailand, she knew that she might put herself in danger and needed to stay here for a while.
She said: “I am very worried about my family and my safety because I have said a lot about the army and the situation in Myanmar. In Myanmar, everyone knows that there are limits to telling what is happening.”
“My friend told me not to return to Myanmar.”
Her fear is not without basis. According to official media reports, the security forces last week issued arrest warrants against 18 celebrities, social media “influencers” and two journalists based on a banned material “designed to cause members of the armed forces to defect or ignore their duties”. All of them opposed the coup.
Han Lay said she did not contact the military or any other officials after her speech, but she said she had been threatening to comment on her social media accounts.
She said: “On social media, they threatened me, saying that when I returned to Myanmar… the prison was waiting for me.” She didn’t know who was threatening. She said that most social media comments are supportive.
She said that in the first few weeks after the coup, she protested with many of Hanley’s classmates. According to the militant group of the Aid for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 2,500 people have been arrested in the military crackdown.
Han Li said that one of her friends was killed.
She said: “He didn’t even protest. He went to a restaurant for coffee at night and someone shot him.”
She said that Han Lay’s family is safe, but because the Internet in Myanmar is often cut off, communication with them is sporadic. She asked the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) not to publish the names of their hometowns to protect them.
Hanley’s public political remarks included direct criticism of the Myanmar military and interviews with fans on the official pageant channel to “win the revolution.” This is not common among pageant contestants, who usually tend to maintain apolitical stance.
Miss Big Cambodia Lyv Chili gave a speech before the game, calling on fans to stay away from politics.
She said, but Han Lay thought it was her “duty” to speak out. She called Ms. Suu Kyi “the biggest inspiration”. The expelled democracy leader was accused last week of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Han Lay had planned to receive training after graduation to become a flight attendant, but she said she was not sure which way to go. She said that some people tried to persuade her to participate in politics, but she thought it was not suitable for her.
At the same time, she plans to continue to speak in her own voice.
She said: “These are crimes against humanity, and this is why we want the United Nations to act urgently.” “We want our leaders to come back, and we want a real democracy to come back.”