BANGKOK, Thailand — As expatriates from Myanmar around the world react to the military's lightning takeover of their homeland, one restaurant in neighboring Thailand is working a diner at a time to help support members of Bangkok's Myanmar community who want to take action against Monday's coup.
Instead of paying for their meals, customers at Mandalay Food House are asked to donate to a fund to support Myanmar activists in Thailand who are protesting the power seizure from the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
They are considering campaigning online, distributing petitions and "anything they can do lawfully from here," said one, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of attracting the attention of Burmese or Thai security officials. Myanmar is also known as Burma.
Diners who learned of the fundraising activity filled the seats at lunchtime on Friday, digging into such specialties as mohinga — a rice noodle and fish soup. Some came wearing shirts or hats with symbols of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.
Many also attended several small rallies in Bangkok outside the Myanmar Embassy and in front of the United Nations' regional office.
Sai Lao Mai, the restaurant's 28-year-old owner, said that when he woke up to news of the coup, he immediately felt he had to do "something for our country, our leader."
Many of his customers feel the same way. Rain Adhikaul said he too felt the need to push back against the army.
Khine Su, another patron, donated 1,000 baht ($33), double the meal's cost.
Sai Lao Mai said he had raised close to $2,000 in five days, a significant sum for the 3-year old restaurant that operates under time and social distancing restrictions during the COVID-19 crisis.
Outside the establishment, the restaurateur brainstormed with some of his compatriots on what they can do next.
Before they went on their way, the group sang "Kabar Makyay Bu" (We Won't Be Satisfied Until the End of the World) — an anthem of the country's new nonviolent resistance movement. The song was written to inspire Myanmar's ultimately failed 1988 uprising against military rule, and is set to the tune of "Dust in the Wind," a 1977 song by the U.S. rock group Kansas.