On March 28, 2021, over a hundred Myanmar-Americans residing in the North Texas area, led by members of the ‘Dallas Fort-Worth Myanmar Ethnic Community,’ staged a rally outside the Fort Worth Convention Center. Marching from the Center to the Tarrant County Courthouse, participants held signs and chanted in English, Burmese, Kachin, and more to draw attention to the recent February military coup and ongoing “Spring Revolution” in Myanmar.
Some of the participants expressed concerns for family members still living in the country. “My dad was involved in the pro-democracy movement in 1988, so I’m constantly concerned if they will be taking him in or anything,” said one rally attendee to a Fort Worth Weekly reporter. “One of my brothers is an elected representative from the National League for Democracy [and] I cannot get in contact with him,” expressed another.
On the morning of February 1, 2021, the Tatmadaw, the official name for the Myanmar military, seized control of Myanmar’s government and arrested its recently-reelected civilian leaders, including the de-facto leader of Myanmar, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. After protests — primarily staged by Myanmar youth groups — erupted nationwide, the Tatmadaw moved to shut down mobile networks and cut off internet access in major cities, suspending most communication with the outside world.
The ‘Myanmar Ethnic Community’ in Dallas-Fort Worth, home to the second-largest Myanmar community in the United States, was founded shortly after the coup “to show support for those seeking an end to military rule in Myanmar,” and plan events similar to the one on March 31. This march followed on the heels of numerous other gatherings across the United States held by various organizations in support of the Myanmar population, including well-attended rallies in Austin, Texas, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Saint-Paul, Minnesota––all home to some of the largest Myanmar communities in the United States.
Indeed, most Myanmar-Americans still have close familial ties in the Southeast Asian country over 8,000 miles away, and they are now struggling to keep in contact with loved ones during this crisis. According to a 2017 Pew survey, 85% of the 170,000-strong Myanmar community in the United States is foreign-born. Moreover, 80% of these foreign-born individuals have been in the United States for fewer than ten years. And according to World Bank figures, between 2016-2017, this community remitted over $70 million to their families in Myanmar.
With the coup only escalating in violence and chaos, causing widespread disruptions to multiple communication and financial networks connecting Myanmar-Americans to their friends and family in Myanmar, it is unsurprising that the former are coming out in droves to voice their concerns and assert their demands.
Angus Lam is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He recently graduated with High Honors from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in Political Science and Sociology.