Pope and NZ show solidarity with Myanmar

Pope Francis spoke of his solidarity with the people of Myanmar and appealed to its leaders to show willingness to serve the common good “promoting social justice and national stability”.

Myanmar is “a nation that I carry in my heart with much affection, ever since my apostolic visit there in 2017,” he said after the Angelus on Sunday.

New Zealand’s leaders are likewise concerned about the 1 February 2021 military coup which deposed Myanmar’s democratically elected government.

The military has detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi whose National League for Democracy Party won a landslide in a November general election.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, making the announcement after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said all “high-level” political contact would be ended, and New Zealand’s aid programme “should not” be delivered in conjunction with, or benefit, the military.

Ardern, speaking earlier, said the Government’s response represented “important, fundamental changes” to the relationship between New Zealand and Myanmar, and were “right up there” among the strongest actions that could be taken.

Ardern said New Zealand would maintain its aid programme – which mostly consists of agricultural, educational, and renewable energy spending – as none was currently connected to the military.

“This will mean being very cautious about the way that we enter into aid programmes in Myanmar from henceforth,” she said.

A travel ban on Myanmar’s military leaders will be formalised later in the week.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of people rallied across Myanmar on Sunday to denounce last week’s coup and demand Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, in the biggest protests since the 2007 Saffron Revolution that helped lead to democratic reforms.

A line of armed police with riot shields set up barricades, but did not try to stop the demonstration. Some marchers reportedly presented police with flowers as a sign of peace.

Closer to home, hundreds of Myanmar demonstrators and their New Zealand supporters showed solidarity with the people protesting in Myanmar’s city streets, by banging pots and pans on Parliament’s forecourt on Tuesday evening.

“We are deeply concerned and fearful for our family at home. We will do anything we can to help our family, friends and loved ones in Myanmar. Please help support us and our families,” Christalin Thangpawl​, chairwomen of the New Zealand Myanmar Ethnics Council, told the crowd.


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