Myanmar beauty queen lands in Canada after Thai airport limbo


TORONTO, Sept 28 (Reuters) – A Myanmar beauty queen, who spoke out against military rule in her country and was stranded at the airport in Thailand, said she was relieved but she remained defiant after landing in Toronto on Wednesday.

Han Lay captured worldwide attention last year with his pageant speech about the army’s deadly crackdown on anti-junta protests. After spending the last year in Thailand, she was denied re-entry into the country after a brief outing and spent days at Bangkok airport pleading on social media not to be sent home.

“Since I landed here, I feel safe and my worries are gone,” she told Reuters by phone from Toronto International Airport where she was waiting for a connecting flight east of the country. Canada. “I am still a supporter of democracy in Myanmar; I will always support her as much as possible. »

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The 23-year-old, real name Thaw Nandar Aung, said she was going to live in Prince Edward Island, a province off the Atlantic coast of Canada, with the help of the government , but did not say how long she would stay there or what her status in Canada was.

Thai immigration officials refused her entry last week after a brief visit to Vietnam, saying she was using invalid travel documents. Han Lay arrived in Toronto via Seoul, on a Korean Air flight.

Myanmar has been plagued by violence since the military seized power early last year, with junta forces clashing with militias allied with a shadow government and pro-democracy groups. A crackdown has targeted pro-democracy and youth groups, activists, politicians, celebrities and social media influencers.

A director of Human Rights Watch said Myanmar’s military rulers used passport control as a weapon against citizens’ right to travel abroad.

“Such actions should be universally condemned and governments around the world should be wary of the junta using similar tactics against foreign dissidents traveling on Burmese passports in the future,” Phil Robertson said in a statement.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s junta did not respond to calls seeking comment. A spokesperson for Canada’s immigration minister declined to provide details of Han Lay’s case without his consent.

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Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; edited by Jonathan Oatis

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