DFA prepares to repatriate 252 Filipinos in Myanmar

Published February 9, 2021, 12:48 PM

by Manila Bulletin

By Roy Mabasa and AFP

A total of 252 Filipinos in Myanmar have signified their interest to be repatriated amid the recent military takeover and arrests of leading political figures in that country, including former Nobel peace prize winner and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) made this announcement on Tuesday, saying that the department and the Philippine Embassy in Yangon are finalizing a charter flight agreement to bring home those Filipinos. 

“252 Filipinos have signified interest to be repatriated, embassy is in the process of getting confirmation of those Filipinos,” said DFA Spokesperson Ivy Banzon-Abalos in a message to reporters. 

Abalos said the DFA is preparing for a possible repatriation flight on Monday, Feb. 15. 

There are more or less 1,000 Filipinos in Myanmar, according to DFA estimates.

The latest development contradicts the tweet made by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday, who said that the “comparatively” few Filipinos in Myanmar are safe as he sees no need to extricate them at this time even when huge anti-coup protest rallies are being held in Yangon, Mandalay and in the capital Nay Pyi Taw.   

Protesters defy junta warnings

After watching hundreds of thousands of people rally in opposition to last week’s coup, junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing made a televised speech on Monday evening justifying the seizing of power due to “voter fraud.”

His statement came as the military banned gatherings of more than five people in parts of Yangon, the nation’s commercial capital, and other areas across the country where major rallies had erupted over the weekend and on Monday.

A nighttime curfew was also imposed at the protest hotspot sites. But on Tuesday morning, fresh protests emerged in various parts of Yangon, including near the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who the military detained on day one of the coup.

The protesters carried anti-coup placards including “We want our leader”, in reference to Suu Kyi, and “No dictatorship.”

In San Chaung township – where large gatherings were specifically banned – scores of teachers marched on the main road, waving a defiant three-finger salute that has become the trademark sign of the protesters.

“We are not worried about their warning. That’s why we came out today. We cannot accept their excuse of vote fraud. We do not want any military dictatorship,” teacher Thein Win Soe told AFP.

Neighbouring Kamayut township – another area where gatherings are banned – had hundreds of protesters amass in defiance, singing songs and waving posters.

In the capital Naypyidaw, police repeatedly fired water cannon against a small crowd of protesters, who withstood the barrage and refused to retreat.

“End the military dictatorship,” people in the crowd yelled as the water cannon was fired.