Burmese beauty queen takes refuge in Canada

Burmese beauty queen takes refuge in Canada


A Burmese beauty queen known for criticizing her country's ruling military junta arrived in Canada on Wednesday where she was granted political asylum after being stranded for nearly a week at a Thai airport . 

“Han Lay has arrived safely in Toronto,” Tin Maung Htoo of the Burmese Canadian Action Network, an association bringing together the Burmese diaspora in Canada, told AFP, adding that her request for asylum as a political refugee had been accepted.

She must go to Prince Edward Island in the east of the country, he said, explaining that she then planned “to take part in the movement for democracy in Burma from Canada”. 

Thaw Nandar Aung, better known by her professional pseudonym Han Lay, had been a refugee for more than a year in Thailand. But after a short stay in Vietnam, she was turned back because of a passport problem, according to Thai authorities.

Han Lay “was the victim of a deliberate political act by the junta aimed at rendering her stateless”, reacted Phil Robertson of the NGO Human Rights Watch in Asia, a policy already employed in the past by Burmese soldiers returning to the country. power.

“There is no doubt that what happened was a trap to try to force Han Lay to return to Burma, where she would have been immediately arrested, probably subjected to ill-treatment in detention and imprisoned,” he added. 

In 2021, while in Bangkok to compete in the Miss Grand International beauty pageant, the former psychology student had expressed against the coup that ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

“Please help Burma, we need your international help now”, had – she declared in a moving speech which had earned her death threats in return, forcing her to take refuge in Thailand.

Burma has been in chaos since the February 2021 coup. 

The junta continues a bloody crackdown, with more than 2,300 civilians killed and more than 15,000 arrested since the coup, according to a local NGO.