The Fight for Democracy in Myanmar

Federation Chamber 18/03/2021

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (10:41): ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ That is a famous song from the world’s most famous musical, Les Miserables. We download the track, we watch it in theatres, we listen to it on Spotify and other applications, and it’s entertainment. It’s a distant struggle about some oppressor that rests safely in the past, in distant history. For one summer of protests, it was heard on the streets of Hong Kong nearly every day. Right now, protesters are singing this song on the streets of Myanmar. They are very different streets to 1815 France, with a different oppressor but the same brutality. There are people today, not on the stage, who, right now, are facing tear gas and live bullets, and they are spilling real blood. This is not theatre. Over 180 innocent civilians have been ruthlessly killed. They’re dead, killed in cold blood on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and the villages and townships of Myanmar. This is the battleground for democracy and we are compelled to hear their song and their voice of protest. We cannot cover our ears, we cannot shut our eyes and we cannot close our hearts, because, while they are signing for their freedoms, their families and their lives, they are actually also singing for us. They are singing for our freedoms as well as theirs. So, yes, by all means, let’s enjoy a great song in musical theatre, but when you hear that song, sung right now by those protesters on the streets who are putting their lives at risk for their democracy and their freedom in the face of an oppressor, let us not hear it as entertainment; let us hear them. I ask this Chamber again and this government: do you hear the people sing?