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Myanmar military takeover: Vietnamese recall events of February 1

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Vietnamese living in Myanmar think the political upheaval and Covid-19 pandemic have created a perfect storm.

Quang Hai, who works all day in a factory in Mandalay, only knew about the coup when he finished his shift in the afternoon on February 1.

He said: “Telephone and Internet networks were disrupted from 3 a.m. on February 1. Only at 5 p.m., when the Internet was normal, I learned that a coup had taken place.”

Mandalay is 300 km from the capital Naypyitaw and 700 km from Yangon.

The military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, National League for Democracy (NLD), to take over power.

It had previously claimed the elections held in November 2020 were fraudulent and warned that it might “take action” if the assertions of fraud were not taken seriously.

It has announced on television it will remain in power for one year, with ultimate authority resting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

According to Hai, most of his colleagues have avoided venturing out after hearing the news, worrying they could be in trouble, and are trying to get information from the Internet and locals.

A Facebook page for Vietnamese in Myanmar showed many had no idea about what happened when they saw empty streets and people rushing to ATMs and markets to withdraw money and stock up on food.

On February 1, the Vietnamese embassy in Yangon sent a message to the Vietnamese community and business people in the country to brief them on the situation.

It called on them to keep calm, remain safe, not leave Yangon, and prepare for future plans.

“The Lunar New Year is coming, the embassy suggests that enterprises and people should limit gathering and not organize meetings to ensure safety and avoid the spreading Covid-19.”

It has promised more updates though it admitted communication could be difficult.

Vu Hoan, an interpreter working for a Taiwanese company in Yangon, said on the night of January 31 his employers suddenly told him to take a day off since there could be some trouble.

“It seemed that some locals had leaked information about the coup. At 5 a.m. the Internet was disrupted, and news about Suu Kyi was published at around 10 a.m.”

On being warned by the embassy, he stayed indoors with other colleagues. At noon, he went to a supermarket and stocked up on some food.

“A lot of people were waiting in line to buy food. I am worried about the Covid-19, but I had to go.”

As of February 3, Myanmar has recorded more than 140,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,100 deaths.

Thanh Huynh, who lives in Yangon, also saw people rushing to markets and stores to buy and stock food, causing prices to surge. But things started returning to normal on February 2.

“The streets are quiet, and prices have increased, but everyone is okay.”

Many Vietnamese and locals have never seen a coup in their life, and so they “have no idea what will happen next.”

“Covid-19 and then the coup… Vietnamese here may not have a proper Lunar New Year holiday,” Huynh said.

Many Vietnamese in Myanmar yearn for home, especially with the pandemic making them jobless and saddling them with great financial difficulty.

Thanh Du, who lives in a suburb of Yangon, is one of them. He was waiting to fly home and celebrate Tet with his family, but there was no flight.

He said he had heard rumors about protests in the next three days in support of the deposed government.

The military has sacked 24 ministers and deputies, and named 11 replacements.

Hoan, Hai and Huynh want Burmese to have a peaceful life, while Du believed the international community would impose sanctions on the military leaders before things get better.

The instability would scare away foreign investors, making it more difficult for Burmese to get jobs and earn a livelihood, Du said.

“The virus and the coup will create a lot of misery. I want the military to release people and listen to the people. If Suu Kyi commits any crime, she should be judged in a court.”

By Anh Ngoc & Thanh Tam – VnExpress.net – February 3, 2021

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