‘A New Normal’: Key Figures in Myanmar Reflect on 2020

U Aung Myo Min
Human Rights Activist and Director of Equality Myanmar
What is your take on the outgoing 2020?
On the human rights front, Myanmar has not seen any progress. Some repressive laws on freedom of expression and assembly are still in effect, while injustice is rampant in war zones in some ethnic areas of the country. Those are challenges for human rights activists. International pressure on the Rohingya issue has also tarnished the country’s image, partly due to the government’s weak participation in international relations.
How did COVID-19 affect you personally?
Coping with the “new normal,” adapting to something we have still not gotten used to. I have to work mostly online these days. To my dismay, the coronavirus did not permit us to conduct the human rights public awareness campaign that Equality Myanmar normally conducts in December. It was online instead. I want to go out and meet with people. I feel sort of under pressure being confined at home. It’s the worst global health issue I have ever experienced.
Did you see any silver linings in the pandemic?I have witnessed that people can still manage to be connected by all means— digitally in this case—showing undefeated human spirit, especially in these globally unsettling times. Plus, there has been a strong sense of sympathy and compassion among people during the pandemic. Health workers and volunteers are taking risks to help others, while religious groups—from Buddhist to Christian to Muslim—are still trying to reach out to everyone in need. I noticed that there is no racial and religious discrimination when people are trying to fight against COVID-19, since the disease can indiscriminately infect anyone. I feel people are behaving more humanely at this time.
What are your expectations for the incoming year?
I have high hopes for 2021 because we are going to have a new government. I want to have a government that is aware of people’s situations and works both for the people and with the people. Globally, I hope to see a world that is free from war and disease, while human rights, equality and development are restored.