IU sophomore Monica Cherput, 19, is the same age as a victim of the violence following Myanmar’s recent military coup.
A 19-year-old protesting in Myanmar was shot in the head by police last week, according to the BBC. She is currently hospitalized.
This instance was a jarring reminder of how helpless she feels while seperated from her extended family in Myanmar, Cherput, who serves as the creative director for Myanmar Student Association at IU, said.
“It's almost suffocating,” she said.
Myanmar’s military seized power from leader Aung San Suu Kyi through a coup Feb. 1, causing the country to plummet into violence. More than 8,100 miles away, IU students are working to advocate for people affected by the conflict and generate aid for them.
“The fact that the military is gaining control means more ethnic cleansing, more issues, more people suffering, more people starving,” Cherput said.
The military is contesting the results of the nation’s Nov. 8 general election, saying the results favoring Suu Kyi were fraudulent. Marches, police violence and communication blocks have unfolded since the takeover as citizens protest against the military coup.
“I just want to be there,” Cherput said. “Protesting on the streets.”
Cherput’s extended family are in Myanmar, where the military shut down the nation’s internet Feb. 6. She could not reach her extended family for about two days. There have been several other reports of internet shutdowns since Monday, she said.
“I didn't think it was going to happen,” she said.
Despite the distance, Cherput and other students from Myanmar are working to make the violence in the country known.
“Just some reassurance that people know what's going on would be really nice,” Cherput said.
The biggest action people can take for those in Myanmar is to educate themselves and spread awareness, junior MSAIU President Ring Te said.
“The situation is not getting better,” he said. “It's getting worse.”
Protests involving hundreds of thousands of people have unfolded against Myanmar’s military, beginning on Feb. 2. President Joe Biden sanctioned Myanmar last week, blocking the nation’s generals from access to $1 billion in American assets.
Te said the MSAIU will work with Free Myanmar Campaign USA, a campaign advocating for the nation’s people to generate support. The MSAIU is raising money for Free Myanmar Campaign USA's GoFundMe for food and personal protective gear, protective equipment at protests and basic funds for those out of work in Myanmar.
“We do need financial support in order for us to reach out to different states, reach out to different community,” he said.
The recently deposed Suu Kyi was imprisoned by the military on Feb. 1. She has faced criticism for doing little to stop the genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority group.
Te said people should pay more attention to the violence against Myanmar’s people and less on the controversy surrounding Suu Kyi.
“And it shouldn't be just focusing one side of the story,” Te said. “It should be focusing on the whole people and how that has affected them.”
Senior Abigail Mawi, who is the secretary of the MSAIU, said she has been working to establish a better understanding of the context of the coup and the related violence. She said she has seen comments focusing on Suu Kyi and some asking where the nation of Myanmar is located on social media like Facebook and Instagram.
Mawi said she responds to comments with information about Myanmar and asks those commenting to do deeper research.
Academic extensions from professors on classwork would also help, junior Demerry Thein, vice president of the MSAIU, said. Some students following Myanmar developments have shifted their sleep schedules in order to keep up with developments. Thein said she has stayed up until 7 a.m. to keep up with news updates beginning Feb. 1.
“I think right now I'm at almost my burnout level,” she said.
Thein said she is unsure how long the conflict will continue and is concerned about the actions of her nation’s military.
“They don't care about anyone else,” she said. “And if they have to kill, they will kill.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated which part of Cherput's family resides in Myanmar. A previous version of this article incorrected stated the name of the Myanmar Student Association at IU. A previous version of this article mistakenly identified the organizer of the GoFundMe.