Hannah Cunneen and Rowan Hamill-McMahon reluctantly and guiltily left Myanmar last week, vowing to help the anti-coup civil disobedience campaign. Martin van Beynen reports.
The long queues stretched out the door of Yangon (Rangoon) International Airport.
People, mostly foreigners, were leaving in droves with everything they had, including their pets.
In the three hours it took development workers Hannah Cunneen, 33, originally from Ashburton, and her partner, British national Rowan Hamill-McMahon, 31, to get in the airport door, they had ample time to consider those left behind.
“We were both racked with guilt for leaving,” says Cunneen, who arrived in New Zealand on Sunday and is in quarantine in Auckland with Hamill-McMahon, who she met in Myanmar.
“You know you’re leaving our home again and all the small business that we were excited about, many of which going under. Our friends weren’t sleeping, our colleagues had been tear-gassed.
“It didn’t feel right that we were able to leave and these beautiful people had to stay and fight such a cruel battle.”
Initially, the couple had told their international consultancies they were determined to stay.
“We felt now was not the time to desert the country we loved most. But things were escalating. Our work colleagues were concerned about our wellbeing and embassies were raising alert levels.
“I was starting to lose a lot of sleep. The conversations started to become desperate, and it got to the point where two seats were available. It became apparent it was time to go before things became more difficult to leave.”
The couple admit there was not much they could have done to help the anti-coup movement even if they had stayed.
“But we could have been a witness. We kind of felt at least someone would be seeing what is happening,” Hamill-McMahon says.