Thaw Nandar Aung, 23, who spoke out against the military coup in her homeland, "has arrived safely in Toronto," says Tin Maung Htoo of Burmese Canadian Action Network.

Aung was denied re-entry into the country after a brief exit and spent days in Bangkok airport, pleading on social media not to be sent back home.
Aung was denied re-entry into the country after a brief exit and spent days in Bangkok airport, pleading on social media not to be sent back home. (Reuters Archive)

A Myanmar beauty queen who spoke out against the military coup in her homeland has landed in Canada, where she has been granted asylum after being stranded at an airport in Thailand for nearly a week.

Thaw Nandar Aung, 23, better known by her professional moniker Han Lay, "has arrived safely in Toronto," Tin Maung Htoo of the Burmese Canadian Action Network told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

"She's now waiting for a (connecting) flight to Charlottetown" in eastern Canada, where she plans to settle and continue her activism against the coup that ousted Myanmar's civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, he said.

Tin Maung Htoo also confirmed that her claim for political asylum in Canada had been accepted.

Thai immigration officials denied her entry last week following a brief visit to Vietnam, saying she was using invalid travel documents.

In a post on her verified Facebook page, Han Lay said she feared the Myanmar police would come and get her at the airport and reached out to the UN refugee agency.

READ MORE: Outspoken Myanmar model held by Thai immigration, fears repatriation

Using passports as weapons

Human Rights Watch's Phil Robertson accused Myanmar's rulers of using passports "as a weapon against their own people" and of having laid "a trap to try to force Han Lay to return to Myanmar, where she would have faced immediate arrest, likely abuse in detention, and imprisonment."

He called it "a deliberate political act by the junta to make her stateless."

Han Lay made headlines in March 2021 when she urged the world to "save" the people of Myanmar from the military, which had seized power a month earlier.

While in Bangkok competing in the Miss Grand International contest, the former psychology student spoke out against the coup.

"I want to say from here to the world: please support the Myanmar people," she told Thailand's Khaosod English news outlet.

"So many people die in Myanmar by the guns of the military ... Please save us."

READ MORE: UN Security Council condemns Myanmar executions in rare consensus

Thousands in jail

Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with the junta struggling to quell resistance to its rule.

The junta seized power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and has cracked down heavily on widespread opposition to its rule.

Critics, including actors and other celebrities, have been arrested on charges that carry penalties ranging from three years imprisonment to death.

More than 15,000 people have been detained in the crackdown and more than 2,300 civilians died, according to a local monitoring group.

READ MORE: Myanmar court sentences journalist to 3 years in prison

Source: TRTWorld and agencies