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Myanmar swimmer ditches Olympic dream to protest junta violence
- Updated: April 30, 2021
BANGKOK: A Myanmar swimmer has abandoned his dream of competing at the Tokyo Olympics in protest at the junta ruling his homeland, saying that taking part would be “propaganda” for the regime.
Win Htet Oo is one of Myanmar’s top swimmers but in early April, the 26-year-old said he was no longer interested in going to Tokyo.
“To accept the MOC (Myanmar Olympic Committee) as it is currently led is to recognise the legitimacy of a murderous regime,” he wrote in a statement on Facebook.
“I shall not march in the (opening ceremony’s) Parade of Nations under a flag steeped in my people’s blood.”
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup, with much of its population taking to the streets to demand a return to democracy.
To quell the uprising, security forces have cracked down with deadly violence, killing more than 750 civilians in anti-coup unrest, according to a monitoring group.
Besides street protests, a nationwide civil disobedience movement has brought large parts of the country’s economy to a standstill – with civil servants and workers boycotting their jobs in a refusal to serve the military regime.
Win Htet Oo said turning his back on Myanmar’s Olympic team was his way of joining the movement.
“I wanted to show Myanmar people that athletes can take part in the civil disobedience movement,” he told AFP, speaking from Melbourne, Australia.
“The image of me walking behind the flag in the Parade of Nations and smiling – pretending everything was all right – quite frankly disgusted me.”
“It would be a propaganda exercise, some sort of way to tell the world that everything is fine in Myanmar.”