Worried for safety of their family and friends in Myanmar

Ms Phoo Ngon Lin (left), with two friends at Shwedagon pagoda in 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MS PHOO NGON LIN

SINGAPORE - Student Susan Pyi, 21, spends every waking hour here worried for the safety of her family in Myanmar.

The Singaporean, who was born and raised there, has a seven-year-old brother who lives with their mother and grandmother in Yangon. Ms Pyi lives in Singapore with her father.

She said her mother often hears gunshots near their apartment.

Ms Pyi is most concerned about her brother, who likes to go onto the balcony, where stray bullets could pose a risk.

"I've seen a lot of pictures of kids getting hurt, so I'm really worried about him," she said.

To make matters worse, she loses contact with her family on days when the authorities in Myanmar cut off access to the Internet.

"I don't know what's happening and I just feel so helpless," she said.

Protests, largely led by young people, broke out in several cities in Myanmar after military officials staged a coup on Feb 1 and detained the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, along with many other leaders of the National League for Democracy - Myanmar's elected ruling party.

The military crackdown which followed left many dead and injured, and more than 1,000 people were arrested.

Amid the ensuing chaos, word spread that criminals were looting and terrorising residents.

Nanyang Polytechnic student Aung Myint Myat, 21, said his aunt in Yangon had a close shave on Feb 13 when her house in Yangon was almost burgled.

He said his 45-year-old aunt, who lives with her brother, told him the front door was forcefully unhinged while she was asleep, but nothing else was damaged.

"If they had got through, she would have been in a lot of trouble," he added.

Mr Aung, who lives here with his mother and brother, said if he could return to Myanmar, he would join the protesters.

"If people younger than me are there fighting for their lives, why shouldn't I? It pains me that I can't do much about it," said the Myanmar national.

Nanyang Polytechnic student Aung Myint Myat said his aunt in Yangon had a close shave when her house in Yangon was almost burgled. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AUNG MYINT MYAT

Project executive Phoo Ngon Lin, 24, said her friends in Myanmar join the protests every day, knowing they could die.

Ms Phoo, a permanent resident here, said: "I feel a lot of guilt because I'm here in Singapore living a privileged life, while these young protesters are being robbed of their futures. I'll never have the courage to be on the front line."

Her mother and grandmother are with her in Singapore but her father remains in Myanmar.

Ms Phoo decided to start a website to give information on the death toll in Myanmar.

She said independent groups in Myanmar have said the death toll is higher than the 50-plus that was officially reported.

She added: "What angers me the most is that the military is using lethal weapons on unarmed protesters."

Ms Pyi and several others have been tapping social media to raise awareness about the extent of the violence in Myanmar.

She is part of a group with Nanyang Polytechnic's Mr Aung which translates videos about the situation in Myanmar into English. They then post them on social media, hoping this will get the word out to the rest of the world.

Mr Nicholas Naing, 47, chief executive of engineering firm Trust Synergy International, which is headquartered here, showed his support by suspending all business engagements with the junta. He also allowed his staff in Myanmar to stop work and join the protests.

Mr Naing, who is from Myanmar and is now a Singaporean citizen, said: "It's a sacrifice that businesses have to make to cut off (the junta's) supply chains. The impact goes both ways."

He, along with some friends, have donated money and safety equipment to the protesters.

Several of them said they appreciated Singapore's position on the military coup.

In a BBC interview on March 2, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the coup as an enormous, tragic step back for the country.

He also said the use of lethal force against civilians and unarmed demonstrators is not acceptable.

PM Lee called for the military regime to release State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, to negotiate with her National League for Democracy party and to work out a peaceful way forward for Myanmar.

Reacting to the news, Ms Phoo said: "I'm happy that my second home is taking a step towards helping Myanmar."

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