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The beauty queen brings Myanmar’s democratic struggle to the international stage

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Myanmar model Han Lai did not win the Miss Grand International beauty pageant last week, but she will be remembered as one of the most passionate contestants.

The 22-year-old turned to Thailand on Saturday for an emotional speech asking for “urgent international help” for her country, and 141 protesters were killed that day in repression by military rulers who she said were selfish and abusive. their power.

On Friday, she said her compatriots in the anti-coup movement would not back down from a fight that has so far claimed nearly 550 lives in the two months since the generals overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I can say one thing that we, the citizens of Myanmar, will never give up,”

; she told Reuters.

“I was told they would fight in the street and now I am also fighting on stage. So I think if they don’t give up, we will win. “

Myanmar went into chaos after the coup, with daily demonstrations and strikes aimed at crippling the country’s administration, many of which were deadly suppressed by security forces with live munitions.

The victims are mostly young people born in the last years of half a century of military rule, before giving way in 2011 to a brief era of democracy and economic reform.

Recalling Saturday’s race, she said her speech, during which she struggled with tears, caused deep grief that she was unable to contain.

“I was in control of my feelings at the time because I had to speak to the whole world in two or three minutes,” she said.

“I have to talk,” she said. “I cried a lot, and I cried a lot all night when I went back to my room. So far, when I talk about Myanmar, I also cry a lot. “

She said she was unable to focus on the race and felt guilty about the people suffering at home.

“Beauty queens have to smile every time, they have to connect with all people, very personally,” she said.

“I can’t be happy here because (while) doing daily activities here, so many people have died in Myanmar.”

The race’s founder, Nawat Itzaragrisil, said Han Lai’s decision to speak out against the junta meant he would have to stay abroad.

“If she (returns) to Myanmar at the moment, she will not go home, but will go to prison,” he said.

Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by William McLean

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