Myanmar swimmer Win Htet Oo withdraws from Olympics as a sign of protest against military rule
Win Htet Oo, who could be Myanmar's first-ever swimmer at the Olympics, has decided to abandon the Tokyo Games as a sign of protest.
Every competitive swimmer dreams of representing the country at the Olympics. Myanmar's Win Htet Oo is no different. Since the age of 6, the swimmer has trained to become a professional and eventually compete for Myanmar at the biggest sporting stage in the world.
With eyes wide open, Htet Oo was looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics and training for it in Melbourne, Australia. But soon his dream was crushed.
The 27-year-old who could be Myanmar's first-ever swimmer at the Olympics has decided to abandon the Olympics and criticise the ruling military power.
Htet Oo was aggrieved when Myanmar's democratically elected government was violently ousted by the military in February. The security forces in have killed more than 850 people since the coup on February 1. Over hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have also been detained.
In an interview with Australian media outlet SBS, Htet Oo said, "I instinctively knew as soon as the military came into power, the Myanmar Olympic Committee would be controlled by the military, and as such, I won't participate."
The 27-year-old wrote in a statement on Facebook this year "I will try to fulfill my obligations to Myanmar as a Sportsperson to institute an international boycott of the Myanmar Olympic Committee (MOC). I call upon the IOC to immediately investigate the MOC and search for grounds for immediate expulsion from the Olympic Movement. Genocidaires do not deserve to be in the Olympics."
In June, Htet Oo also urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to do more, and denounce the MOC altogether.
Htet said the Myanmar Olympic Committee has "failed abjectly in its duty to uphold the Olympic Charter and the Fundamental Principles of Olympism," and said it should be expelled from the Olympic Movement.
"I wrote a letter to the IOC asking for Myanmar athletes to be represented in the Olympic Games under a neutral flag because I believe Myanmar athletes are being intimidated or being threatened to participate at the Olympic Games," he said. But his request was denied.
A petition he had set up to gain support for his request has attracted nearly 900 signatures.
However, it is unlikely the IOC will interfere in Myanmar's Olympic team. The IOC Charter strictly forbids direct political interference in national Olympic committees
Win Htet Oo is also not the only Myanmar athlete to take a stand against the military. At least up to 10 players reportedly refused to participate in Myanmar's Football World Cup qualifier in Japan. During the national anthem, a substitute goalkeeper gave the three-finger salute associated with the protests.
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy party were overthrown in February in the coup and have been detained by the military. The coup followed a landslide victory for Suu Kyi's party at the general election in February, with the military having backed the opposition and alleged widespread fraud.
Military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has taken power, with the armed forces having been internationally condemned for violence against protestors.