Miss Universe Myanmar arrives at the pageant with a message

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“Soldiers patrol the city every day and sometimes put up barricades to harass people who pass by,” said Thuzar Wint Lwin, who also goes by the name Candy. “In some cases, they shoot without hesitation. We are afraid of our own soldiers. Whenever we see one, all we feel is anger and fear. “

Every night on television, the military announces new arrest warrants for celebrities and others who have criticized the regime. Some of those named have been people Thuzar Wint Lwin knows.

Thuzar Wint Lwin does not expect to be able to return to Myanmar after his criticism of the junta.Credit:Ysa Pérez / The New York Times

Before leaving for the United States, he looked anxiously to see if his name had ended up on the military’s wanted list. She saw reports of known people being detained while trying to leave the country, so she decided to wear a hoodie and glasses to avoid being recognized at the Yangon airport. “I had to go through immigration and I was so scared,” she said in an interview from Florida.

By criticizing the board from outside her country, Miss Universe Myanmar is not alone.

Win Htet Oo, one of the country’s best swimmers, said from Australia that he was giving up his dream of going to the Olympics and would not compete under the Myanmar flag until the regime’s leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, was removed from office. power. And mixed martial arts fighter Aung La Nsang, an American citizen and one of Myanmar’s most famous athletes, has urged President Joe Biden to help end the suffering of the people of Myanmar.

Charging

Thuzar Wint Lwin said that she believes it will not be safe for her to return to Myanmar after speaking out against the regime; she doesn’t know where she will go after the contest is over.

Graduated in English from the University of East Yangon, her path to the pro-democracy movement perhaps dates back to her childhood. He grew up in a middle class home. Like many parents, his father, a businessman, and his mother, a housewife, did not dare to speak about the military government that was then in power.

One of his earliest memories was walking with his mother near Sule Pagoda in central Yangon in 2007, when monks led protests across the country against the military rule. I was 7 years old. As they approached the pagoda, the soldiers broke up the protest by firing their weapons into the air. People started running. She and her mother also ran.

“We were very scared,” he recalls. “We went to a stranger’s house and hid.”

Soon after, the military crushed that protest movement by shooting dozens of people. But in 2011, the military began to share power with civilian leaders and open up the country, allowing cell phones and affordable Internet access to flood in.

Thuzar Wint Lwin is part of the first generation in Myanmar who grew up fully connected to the outside world and for whom a free society seemed normal. In 2015, the country seated democratically elected officials for the first time in more than half a century. “We have lived in freedom for five years,” he said. “Don’t give us back. We know everything about the world. We have the Internet. “

November was the first time he was old enough to vote, and he voted for the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, which won overwhelmingly, only to have the military overturn the results by taking power.

Before the coup, Thuzar Wint Lwin’s biggest test came when he was 19 years old and underwent surgery to remove precancerous tumors from each breast, leaving permanent scars. She decided not to undergo laser treatment to improve her appearance as a reminder of her success in preventing cancer.

“It’s just a scar and I’m still me,” he wrote in a recent post with photos of the scars. “I found self-acceptance when I realized that nothing changed who I am and the values ​​I set for myself. Now when I see those scars, I feel empowered. “

Charging

He started modeling when he was in high school and, after his father’s retirement, helped support the family. She is one of less than a dozen contestants from Myanmar who competed in the Miss Universe pageant, which was founded in 1952. During the period from 1962 to 2011, when the Tatmadaw first ruled, Myanmar sent no contestants.

When Thuzar Wint Lwin arrived in Florida on May 7, the airline told him that the airline had lost the suitcase with his competitive outfits. Most of the contestants had already arrived and were busy rehearsing, making videos, and doing photo shoots. As the week progressed, the bag had not yet arrived, but the contest organizers were helping her with her dress and other contestants were lending her their outfits.

His national costume was among the missing items. The Myanmar people living in the United States provided him with an amazing replacement of Chin ethnic origin. He wore it on Thursday to the applause of many in the crowd.

Shortly after landing in Florida, she posted an autobiographical video on Facebook that would be unusual for any beauty pageant contestant: It shows her wearing formal dresses mixed with scenes of people fleeing tear gas and a soldier shooting a passing man in a motorcycle.

“Myanmar deserves democracy,” he said in the video. “We will continue to fight and I also hope that the international communities will provide us with the help we desperately need.”

The New York Times