Friday, December 28, 2007
While Buddhist Relief was preparing a blog posting about Aung San Suu Kyi, the news broke that Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan had been assassinated. We take a moment to pause from posting about Burmese issues today, to honor Bhutto for her courage to return to her home country of 160 million people, to possibly serve and represent them again.
This year, Pakistan and India both commemorated their 60th anniversary of independence from British rule. Burma will follow suit on January 4th, 2008. Pakistan was once neighbors with Burma until 1971, when the Eastern part of Pakistan became an independent nation, now known as Bangladesh.
The immediacy of the news and images of the last moments of Benazir Bhutto's life reached all four corners of the world, literally within a matter of minutes. The shocking incident is virtually happening in one's living room or in front of one's computer screen. How powerful a technology we have - to become immobilized and stunned. As a student of Buddhism, it occurred to this Buddhist Relief blogger that such an incident is also an opportunity to contemplate on: impermanence; the preciousness of a human rebirth; and, being of benefit to all sentient beings.
Several months ago, KPC's Spiritual Director Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo revealed a new melody for the traditional (Tibetan) "Prayer to be Reborn in Dewachen", which we wish to share with you. As Jetsunma describes it, it is "like a mother singing her children to sleep." It is a lullaby of compassion for those passing from this life.
Please feel free to download the prayer here and to share it widely. At the KPC temple in Maryland (USA), this prayer is played ongoingly in the Prayer Room - where the unbroken 24-hour Prayer Vigil of over 22 years - takes place. (For more information on the 24-hour Prayer Vigil or to sponsor prayers, click here).
With this blog posting, Buddhist Relief dedicates The Prayer to be Reborn in Dewachen to Benazir Bhutto, the others who were killed during the incident, and the suicide bomber.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Last Friday, Masoeyein Sayadaw U Kovida accepted the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the University of San Franciso, on behalf of the Burmese monks of Burma (see previous blog posting).
Here is a video link to the event:
MoeMaKa Media - မိုးမခ မီဒီယာ: Masoeyein Sayadaw's Speech at USF on behalf of Burmese Monks
The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit Catholic University, with a focus on "Educating minds and hearts to change the world." The University's press release on this event is posted below in its entirety, with the intention that these uplifting news reach people who live under repressive governments. Please share this blog posting widely, especially with Burmese Buddhist monks and nuns and the people of Burma.
USF Honors Burmese Buddhist Monks During Commencement
Expressing his heartfelt appreciation in accepting an honorary doctorate on behalf of the Buddhist monks of Burma, Sayadaw U Kovida said the University of San Francisco's Dec. 14 tribute was proof that people care about the suffering of the voiceless at the hands of brutal military regimes around the world.
In September, thousands of Burmese Buddhist monks demonstrated peacefully and nonviolently against their country's repressive military regime, prompting a brutal response from the government. During and after the demonstrations, according to international media, thousands of monks were arrested, and many were beaten and killed.
"This honor gives all of us inside and outside Burma much needed encouragement to carry on with conviction," said Sayadaw U Kovida at the commencement ceremony. He promised to relay to the Burmese monks the message of support from USF, which awarded them collectively with an honorary degree.
Sayadaw U Kovida, a distinguished exiled Burmese monk now living in a New York monastery, was himself imprisoned by the Burmese military dictatorship for his participation in the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations against the government.
"We honor the monks of Burma to help keep the Burmese struggle for democracy in the minds and hearts of those of us who enjoy the freedoms they are struggling to achieve," said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. before the ceremony "These are extraordinary, modern-day heroes and persons of faith committed to building a better world, even at the risk of arrest, beatings, and death. We celebrate and support their courageous, nonviolent demonstrations, their continuing struggle for a fair and representative government, and the selfless leadership that is giving an entire nation a taste of freedom. These are the kind of people we hope our graduates will be."
The monks exemplify USF's moral commitment to educate minds and hearts to change the world, according to the honorary degree citation. The citation also draws a comparison to the six Jesuits killed in El Salvador (along with their housekeeper and her daughter) 18 years ago for their outspoken criticisms of an equally repressive government.
"As we have honored our Jesuit brothers, this Jesuit university now honors the Burmese monks of Burma for their courage, compassion, and commitment to seeking to protect the human and democratic rights of the Burmese people in the face of a harshly brutal military dictatorship," the citation states. "The Buddhist monks of Burma serve as an inspiring role model for our students, and they embody the ideals that guide our educational efforts. The chant of 'Do-aye' ('It is our task'), a statement of determination heard on audio recordings from Burma during the protests, evokes the passion we hope will catalyze our students to accept their responsibility for righting the world's wrongs."
Sayadaw U Kovida's history of standing up against the military junta and being jailed for doing so made him an ideal representative of the monks being honored.
"I am thrilled and honored to accept this honorary degree on [their] behalf," Sayadaw U Kovida said during the ceremony. He recognized USF for its tradition of honoring those who work for peace and justice, including the Jesuits killed in El Salvador in 1989 and the Dalai Lama, who received an honorary doctorate from USF in 2003.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The Buddhist monks of Burma are to receive an honorary degree
The University of San Francisco will be hosting their winter graduation ceremonies this Friday, December 14th. Among three honorary degrees that the university will bestow, one of the degree recipients are the Buddhist monks of Burma. A representative of the monks, Sayadaw U Kovida, will accept the degree on behalf of the monks, who are being honored for their courage in rising up in peaceful protest against their country's oppressive military regime. According to the degree citation, their actions reflect the university's mission to educate leaders who will fashion a more humane and just world.
A Berkeley Benefit Event to Help the Burmese Monks and Nuns
When: Monday December 17, 2007, 7 - 9:30 p.m.
Where: Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar Street (@Bonita), Berkeley, CA 94709
What: Burma's Struggle Continues: An Evening with a Burmese Monk Leader (former political prisoner) and "Burma: State of Fear (a film)"
According to the organizers, the evening's speaker is "Masoeyein Sayadaw, head of the International Burmese Monks Organization (Sassana Moli) founded after recent protests in Burma to help the monks and nuns of Burma as well as to save Buddhism from the destructive Burmese Junta. He is a well-known Buddhist teacher and author of 50 years in Burma. He was derobed and imprisoned in Burma for three years in 1990 for his monastery participating in the Monk’s boycott of the military. He has been actively advocating against the atrocities and destructions of monks, nuns and Buddhist institutions in Burma."
His speech will be followed by the film, and then a Q&A session with Stephen Talbot, the Editor of PBS' Frontline/WORLD Series.
(A pdf version of this event is available through this link).
Monday, December 10, 2007
An Editorial from The Nation
Ban must go to Burma
An opportunity will be wasted if the UN secretary-general does not visit the rogue state while in the area
Published on December 10, 2007
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Bangkok yesterday for a three-day stay. Apart from meeting Thai luminaries and having an audience with His Majesty the King, he must take this opportunity to go to Burma and demonstrate his seriousness and interest in the situation there. He must show that the United Nations, which he leads, is following up on the developments there closely. If he does not go to Burma, this could be an opportunity lost.His visit to Bangkok also coincides with the release of a report by Human Rights Watch. It reveals the harsh reality facing the Burmese people and the lies perpetuated by the junta. According to the report, many more Burmese were killed and imprisoned in the violent crackdown on monks and protesters in September than the junta has admitted.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that at least 20 were killed and thousands jailed. UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro put the number at 31 killed, 74 still missing and 650 in custody. The junta said that only 15 people were killed in the crackdown.
The HRW report, which was based on more than 100 interviews with eyewitnesses in Burma and Thailand, concluded that the junta's security forces shot into crowds using live ammunition and rubber bullets. They beat marchers and monks before dragging them onto trucks and throwing them in jail. In addition to the monks, many students and other civilians were killed, although without full and independent access to the country, it is impossible to determine the exact casualty figures.
One of the latest developments the report did not touch on was the increase in the number of arrests and torture of journalists and stringers working for foreign news organisations or news organisations set up by Burmese in exile. Over a dozen Burmese journalists are now behind bars. Several more are currently in hiding. Some journalists were exposed by the junta's militia and volunteers working for the Union of Solidarity and Development Association, and were taken into custody and tortured. These thugs continue to identify persons working for the pro-democracy movement and media organisations.
Therefore, it is imperative that Ban take up this matter with the junta. Since he is in Bangkok, it would not much time for him to travel to Burma. Any resistance on the part of the junta to his visit would be condemned. After all, the junta has pleged to cooperate with the UN, especially its special envoy for Burma, Ibrahim Gambari. The presence of Ban in Rangoon would boost the UN's role and make a strong impression internationally of the UN's seriousness and conviction in seeing this dialogue on national reconciliation proceed.
After a strong show of enthusiasm among members of the UN Security Council and an international outcry, the Burmese junta is buying time, hoping that the will of the international community would soon wane. Meanwhile, the junta is betting on its democratic process, known as the seven-point road map. But this process is not acceptable because the junta is determined to exclude opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the constitution-drafting process. Current consultations, which started last month, continue to be limited and sluggish.
The UN process must be accelerated otherwise it will be stalled and would eventually play into the junta's hands as in the past. As always, the junta is trying to undermine Suu Kyi's role. In the beginning, the junta preferred to deal with pro-democracy students, who turned out to be more lethal and unyielding. Then the junta played the ethnic card against Suu Kyi, trying to drum up support from minority groups that struck cease-fire agreements with the government in exchange for agreeing to turn against her. So far, all of these attempts have proved ineffective. Rangoon is now looking for a way to woo millions of Burmese expatriates living around the world to return and help prop up the regime. It will be a hard sell.
Obviously, the junta is betting that playing the UN card is the best way for it to buy time at this juncture. China and Russia, its allies on the security council, continue to play the role of saviour, no matter what happens. Therefore, it is incumbent on Ban to change the current equation by throwing the UN's weight on the junta.
For another interesting piece published in The Nation, check this out here. This relates to Burmese Information Minister Kyaw Hsan's statement that the recent demonstrations were "trivial".
At the October Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on Burma's Saffron Revolution, Senator Barbara Boxer concluded that "the (images of the demonstrations) will never go away". For all of us at Buddhist Relief, a display of irreverence towards the ordained (the Sangha) is never "trivial".
In a near future blog posting, we will include a photo essay on the Burmese people's outcry for democracy.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
To entire article is being posted on this blog, to facilitate access to it by anyone on the planet. Please do share the information widely.
Capitalizing on Burma's Autumn of Dissent
Opposition in Exile Urging More Protests, Even Armed Conflict
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
MAE SOT, Thailand -- Desperate to maintain the momentum of their challenge to military rule in Burma, opposition leaders in this border town are working with networks of supporters to get monks to return to the streets in protest, to push foreign governments to impose tougher sanctions and to persuade ethnic militias to resume guerrilla attacks.
The leaders here say they believe that the generals who run Burma gave them a priceless political gift in September by ordering soldiers to attack Buddhist monks. "We have to thank them for their stupidity," said Maung Maung, secretary general of the National Council of the Union of Burma, which is based in this hill town along the Thailand - Burma border and is the main umbrella group for exiled politicians and ethnic leaders.
Images of soldiers clubbing barefoot monks in saffron robes focused world attention on Burma's often-ignored military dictatorship and prodded the generals to begin talking to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate and opposition leader whose party trounced them in a 1990 election and who is under house arrest in Rangoon. It also energized a nationwide cadre of angry monks, potent agents of grass-roots change in a Buddhist nation where the number of monks (about 400,000) rivals the number of soldiers.
Still, the generals' public relations gift loses value with each passing day, Burmese opposition figures say.
Without more "bone-breaking" pressure on the generals, talks with Suu Kyi will devolve into an empty delaying game, Maung Maung said. More than a dozen senior leaders of the opposition who were interviewed here, including longtime members of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, echoed his comments.
To ratchet up pressure, opposition leaders said they are urging monks inside Burma to regroup and join in more mass protests with students and workers. They are pleading with Western countries to stiffen economic sanctions and to donate cash to support political activity inside Burma, which the generals call Myanmar.
Opposition leaders including several recently exiled supporters of Suu Kyi, a proponent of nonviolence, are also urging Burma's armed ethnic minorities to prepare for a unified guerrilla conflict against the government.
"Armed struggle has to be part of the pressure," said Khun Myint Tun, a longtime supporter of Suu Kyi and member of the Pao ethnic group. "Something needs to happen soon to take advantage of the September momentum."
Some of that momentum does seem to be slipping away.
The military continued last week to raid monasteries and arrest civilians, as it has since the late September crackdown on protesters. Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and is cut off from her supporters.China, Thailand and India have not substantially changed their economic dealings with the Burmese military, buying electricity, natural gas, oil and timber worth an estimated $2 billion a year.
Rangoon is said to be quiet and tense. Since the crackdown, sandbag bunkers have been built on many of its streets. Soldiers often stand around the bunkers, but it is now uncommon to see monks in the country's largest city, according to Shari Villarosa, charge d'affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Burma. "You can't overestimate the power of fear to keep things from happening," Villarosa said.
Here in Mae Sot, newly exiled monks, baby-faced army deserters and ethnic minorities rub shoulders with aging politicians who have been waiting for decades for something -- anything -- that would send the Burmese generals packing.
The September marches obviously fell short of that goal. But veterans of the opposition movement agree that the monks' protests revealed significant weaknesses in the intelligence arm of the military junta.
After the demonstrations, the military detained more than 3,000 people, holding many in makeshift detention centers. Individuals released from detention in recent weeks have described their interrogators as confused, inept and sometimes willing to accept bribes to release detainees. They often argued among themselves in front of detainees.
Diplomats and analysts have traced the breakdown of military intelligence to the abrupt dismissal in 2004 of Gen. Khin Nyunt, then prime minister and the longtime head of intelligence. His firing and arrest, on order of Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the head of state, coincided with the firing of thousands of intelligence officers. "The intelligence operation used to be very professional, all the way down to the lower ranks," said David Tharckabaw, a leader of the Karen National Union, which represents the Karen ethnic minority. "Now it has become amateurish."
The crackdown in September differed from previous episodes of military brutality inside Burma in that it was captured in photographs and on videos that were splashed around the world within hours.
This was no accident, according to opposition leaders here in Mae Sot. "We had about 200 people inside the country trained to take pictures with digital and video cameras," said Maung Maung, of the National Council. "We also trained them to transmit using satellite phones and Internet cafes. They were on the front lines when the demonstration started."
He said the opposition had learned a lesson in 1988, when the military killed hundreds of people in Rangoon in an attack on student demonstrators. Then, few images of the attacks reached the outside world. "We were not taking any chances this time," Maung Maung said.
Since the crackdown, though, many of the individuals who captured and transmitted images have been detained, gone into hiding or fled the country. An acute need has arisen for money to replenish the larder -- with trained people and equipment, Maung Maung said.
For years, the U.S. government has taken the lead among foreign governments in providing funding for this kind of training and equipment. Those funds are likely to increase substantially in the coming year, if pending legislation moves through Congress.
"We are not talking about guns," said Maung Maung. "We want money for sat phones, for digital cameras, for typewriters for the monks, for bicycles. We need it now." But there is plenty of talk here about guns. It is focused on 17 ethnic groups that since the 1990s have suspended armed conflict with the military.
The leaders of ethnic groups such as the Shan and the Wa have been allowed to trade timber, opium and other commodities. They keep their guns but do not fight. Thanks to these cease-fire deals, the generals have enjoyed a break from costly and unwinnable guerrilla wars in the mountains along the Burma - Thailand border. But deals with the generals have brought little economic or social benefit to the ethnic minorities, according to diplomats.
Now, leaders of several of the ethnic groups are talking with the leaders of Suu Kyi's exiled political party and other opposition leaders about resuming their conflicts -- as a way of pressuring the military to negotiate seriously with Suu Kyi. "Without this kind of pressure, the military regime does not move, and that is for sure," said Mahn Sha, secretary general of the Karen National Union. The Karen have refused to sign a cease-fire with the military.
In Burma, where about 90 percent of the population is Buddhist, monks have periodically played major political roles.
In the 1930s, they took part in protests against British colonial rule. They joined students in 1988 street demonstrations. But this September, according to opposition leaders here in Mae Sot, monks moved to center stage in determining Burma's future. They were attacked by the military in public and on camera, and those images have been widely disseminated inside Burma, on CDs and DVDs, according to Maung Maung. In the weeks since their marches were broken up and they were dispersed from monasteries, many of Burma's monks have refused to accept alms from members of the military or their families, according to opposition leaders, diplomats and two monks who recently fled the country.
In Burmese culture, giving food and gifts to monks is a primary way of accumulating merit for the next life.
Annoyed by the monks' refusal to accept their offerings, some military officers and their wives have threatened the monks and forced them to take food and other gifts, said Kowvida, 26, a monk who said he took part in the September marches and fled Rangoon in late October.
"In these cases, we accept unwillingly and then throw it away," Kowvida said. Asked if he believes more street protests by the monks are likely, Kowvida said he honestly does not know. But he said that with the passage of time anger is building, not ebbing.
"There is a fire of dissatisfaction," he said, "and I think it will explode sometime."
Sunday, December 2, 2007
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom will hold a public hearing to examine how religious freedom abuses perpetuated by the Burmese military contribute to violent repression of peaceful dissent, ongoing abuses against ethnic minorities, and regional instability. The hearing also will assess recent U.N. diplomatic efforts as well as U.S. policy options for bringing about democratic change in Burma.
The witnesses are:
* Paul Rush, F24 News, an eyewitness to the demonstrations and subsequent crackdown
* Ashin Nayaka, Columbia University, an exiled Burmese monk and Buddhist scholar
* Aung Din, US Campaign on Burma
* Chris Lewa, Arakan Project
* Salai Bawi Lian, Chin Human Rights Organization
* Michael Green, Center for Strategic and International Studies
* Jared Genser, Freedom Now
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
DATE: Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2200, Washington, D.C.
Judith Ingram, Communications Director,
(202) 523-3240, ext. 127
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.
Michael Cromartie, Chair • Preeta D. Bansal, Vice Chair • Richard D. Land, Vice Chair • Don Argue • Imam Talal Y. Eid • Felice D. Gaer • Leonard A. Leo • Elizabeth H. Prodromou • Nina Shea • Ambassador John V. Hanford III, Ex-Officio • Joseph R. Crapa, Executive Director
The above information is posted on the Commission's website. Click here.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The Burmese government newspaper New Light of Burma had a vague entry about the celebration: “pagodas, stupas and religious buildings were packed with devotees and pilgrims and they performed meritorious deeds.” Contrast it with what the media outside of Burma is reporting - that security has tightened once again around Shwe Dagon Pagoda, which was the center of the monk-led protests in September. From the Democratic Voice of Burma (based in Norway): A sign has been put up over the entrance to Shwe Dagon pagoda saying that people must bring their identity cards to enter the pagoda grounds. While this rule was not enforced for all visitors, monks’ documents were checked by the guards. “They didn’t really check everyone for [ID cards], although they were checking on monks. Monks who were unable to show any identification were not allowed to enter the pagoda,” said a local visitor. Security was also tightened inside the pagoda, and government guards were positioned around the pagoda grounds.
Which to believe???
Ordained Buddhist monks and nuns who wear the robes represent the Sangha, the third component of the Triple Gem (also known as the Three Precious Jewels). When one takes refuge in Buddhism, one takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Sangha represents the Buddha’s disciples worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.
On the occasion of the Robe-Offering Ceremony to the Sangha, we wish to honor all ordained monks and nuns for keeping the teachings of the Buddha – who said “I am awake” – alive in the chaotic world of today.
In closing, Buddhist Relief would like to share the traditional Theravadan Refuge Vows (in Pali):
Buddham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dhammam saranam gacchami
I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Check out this website for more information on the Triple Gem.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
"UN has appointed Mr. Gambari to mediate for the demonstrations headed by U Gambira. So co-inciding. U GAMBIRA & Mr.GAMBARI. U GAMBIRA is the most wanted monk for the SPDC. If SPDC can arrest U Gambira, Mr. Gambari will have to request to meet U Gambira. Mr. Gambari should talk to U Gambira over the phone. Actually SPDC should talk with U Gambira rather than talking to Mr. Gambari. Because, U Gambira can and will, call another more stronger revolt in the near future. He is the only person that can revolt under their brutal rule. Bo Bo 11/09/2007"
An OpEd piece in the Washington Post written by U Gambira can be found on this blog here.
Mr. Gambari has been in the news as well, having just left Burma once again, after a six-day visit. Buddhist Relief has taken note of yet another insightful OpEd piece that appeared in today's Washington Post that discusses Mr. Gambari's visit and a 'rescuer' for the UN. Here is the piece in its entirety:
Last Thursday, U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari looked sure to be slinking out of Burma in humiliating failure. The secretive general who runs that Southeast Asian nation had kept Gambari cooling his heels for six days, finally refusing to talk to him. Any semblance of a U.N.-sponsored diplomatic process seemed about to sputter to an undignified close.
Then Gambari, and the diplomatic process, too, found an unlikely rescuer: Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democratic forces in Burma and daughter of Burma's independence hero. Having been escorted under police guard to a meeting with Gambari from the house arrest where she has spent the past 4 1/2 years -- and most of the past two decades -- she gave Gambari a statement to read on her behalf once he reached Singapore.
The statement validated his efforts and expressed something between hope and confidence that a dialogue between her and the dictatorship might ensue. Suddenly it seemed possible that the peaceful uprising of the people and the monks, which the junta brutally sought to crush in September, might yet lead to a negotiated political process for long-suffering Burma and its 50 million people.
How did the weakest actor in this drama -- one who has been almost entirely cut off from the world, from her supporters, even from her family -- manage to become its animating force? Why did she choose to throw Gambari and the faltering U.N. process a lifeline? And how might she expect the world to respond?
We have to guess at some answers because the junta is too afraid of Aung San Suu Kyi's popularity and legitimacy to allow her to speak freely. In 1990 the National League for Democracy, which she heads, won a landslide victory in national elections, but the junta never honored the results. In May 2003, the regime nearly killed her when a mob of government-sponsored thugs attacked her and her supporters in the town of Depayin. The statement read by Gambari is the first public expression the regime has allowed her since then.
Aung San Suu Kyi is often compared to Nelson Mandela, and not only because they share an otherworldly forbearance and are both recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Like Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi is savvy as well as saintly; she is playing for results. So her lifeline to Gambari probably indicates that she believes there is at least a chance the regime will enter into serious negotiations this time around.
Why might that be true, given how often the generals have played at dialogue only long enough to allow international attention to drift away? Because after the bloody crackdown on revered monks, even the generals may understand that they crossed a line that the majority of Burmese will not forgive. Just Friday, as Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to meet with her advisers for the first time in years, it was revealed that the regime was frantically dishing out promotions and raises to riot police officers while also reshuffling top military ranks. That could be a response to discontent in the ranks. And yesterday a U.N. human rights investigator was allowed into the country for the first time in four years.
But a close reading of Aung San Suu Kyi's note shows that she is hardly naive or sanguine about success. She stressed her willingness to cooperate but said that a dialogue must be "meaningful and timebound" -- it can't stretch on forever.
That is where the outside world must come in. U.N. officials are busy congratulating themselves and preparing for more visits, while other countries happily name new envoys and core groups and discussion panels. But what's needed is pressure, not celebration or more talk. The U.N. Security Council should implement an arms embargo. The Bush administration, which announced targeted banking sanctions against top officials and tycoons, needs to accelerate their implementation, and the European Union has to join in.
These are things Aung San Suu Kyi is not free to say, negotiating as she is from isolation and confinement. But having saved the U.N.'s bacon, the least she is owed is some tangible support to strengthen her position -- and the chances that dialogue might succeed.
The title of the OpEd piece is "A Rescuer for the U.N. -- and Burma" written by Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The ordained sangha (monks) will be officiating the memorial service to recognize the people of Burma who have given their lives for justice, peace and democracy in that country. The detailed programs are as follows:
10:00 – 11:30 AM: Meal offering to the members of the Sangha
11:30 – 12:30 PM: Memorial Service
1:00 – 4:00 PM: Sermon by the Ordained Sangha (Sasana Moli Sayadaws)
Please Note: Refreshments will be served to the attendees between 10:30-11:30 AM.
Location: 777 UN Plaza (corner of 44th Street and 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10017 (second floor).
This event is being organized by the International Campaign for Burma (ICB - New York). For further information, please contact: Ko Ye Htut(347) 226-0572; Ko Kyaw Zwar Lwin(917) 478-7086; Ko Zeyar Win (917) 834-6590; Ko Zaw Win(917) 238-8273; Ko Kyaw Thu(646) 404-4831; Ma Sandi (917) 445-9222; Ma Shwe War (347) 229-4309; Ma May Thet(917)586-1726; Ko Aung Khant (516) 808-1515; Ko Aung Min Htun (917) 415-7809; Ko Zaw Latt(718) 864-2032
Monday, November 5, 2007
What Burma's Junta Must Fear
By U Gambira
Sunday, November 4, 2007
In August, the Burmese people began to write a new chapter in their determination to find peace and freedom. Burmese monks peacefully protested to bring change to our long-suffering country. As we marched, hundreds of thousands of Burmese and our ethnic cousins joined us to reinforce our collective demand: that military rule finally give way to the people's desire for democracy.
Video and the Internet have allowed the world to witness the brutal response directed by Gen. Than Shwe, Burma's de facto ruler and military leader. Than Shwe unleashed his soldiers and the regime's thugs, who attacked us. Once again the streets in Rangoon and Mandalay ran red with the blood of innocent civilians seeking to save our country from the moral, social, political and economic crises that consume us.
Hundreds of our monks and nuns have been beaten and arrested. Many have been murdered. Alarmingly, thousands of clergy have disappeared. Our sacred monasteries have been looted and destroyed. As darkness falls each night, intelligence units try to round up political and religious leaders.
Military rule has brought Burma to collapse. Our economy is in ruins. Once the breadbasket of Asia, Burma cannot feed itself. Once we were a light for education and literacy; now, the regime has closed schools and universities. Once we breathed the air of freedom; now, we choke on the foul air of tyranny. We are an enslaved people.
My colleagues and I welcomed the strong actions of the United States to impose financial and travel restrictions on the regime and its enablers. Australia is following this model, and the European Union should as well.
Than Shwe and his fellow military leaders have sought to portray this uprising as a singular event, now over. A veneer of quiet has replaced the sounds of gunfire on city streets. Unfortunately, many in the international community buy in and actively support this propaganda.
At the United Nations, China and Russia continue to block the Security Council from facilitating a dialogue between democratic forces and the regime. Within our region, senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have condemned the regime's actions but have done little else. Perhaps most disappointing, the world's largest democracy, India, continues to provide military assistance and trade deals that help finance the regime's war on its people.
What will it take for the world to realize that Burma's generals are a menace and that because of their misrule, drugs, diseases and refugees from Burma spill across borders and wash through other societies, ruining lives?
The recent steps by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his special adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, to open a dialogue with Burma's generals are welcome and necessary. The United Nations can help bring peace to Burma. However, the Security Council is the proper forum. All efforts must focus on making council members take the steps necessary to coerce the generals to come to terms with the people. This involves setting a timetable for the regime to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; allow free assembly; and give a full accounting of the thousands who have disappeared. The council should also seek a ban on all arms sales to the regime.
People ask whether I am disheartened and whether this latest spasm of democratic activism is over. The answer to both questions is no. Although I am wanted by the military and forced to hide in my own country, I am awed by the bravery of so many, including sympathetic security agents of the junta who opened their homes to democracy leaders and me.
Since August, I have seen my country galvanized as never before. I have watched our 88 Generation leaders bravely confront the military. I have watched a new generation of activists join to issue an unequivocal call for freedom. And I have watched as many in the police and military, sickened at what they were forced to do to their countrymen, give so many of us quiet help. The primary tools wielded by Burma's senior generals, a climate of fear and the use of violence, are no longer working -- and with nothing to lose, we are no longer afraid.
On Wednesday, more than 200 monks staged a protest in Pakokku. They stared military officers in the face. Their spirit and determination are a warning to the regime and those that prop it up.
Burma's Saffron Revolution is just beginning. The regime's use of mass arrests, murder, torture and imprisonment has failed to extinguish our desire for the freedom that was stolen from us so many years ago. We have taken their best punch.
Now it is the generals who must fear the consequences of their actions. We adhere to nonviolence, but our spine is made of steel. There is no turning back. It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey. Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Human Rights Watch recently released a report on “Sold to be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma". All are invited to join in a live, timely and important discussion on this topic:
WHO Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
WHAT Burma Roundtable: The Recruitment and use of Child Soldiers
WHEN Monday, November 5, 2007, 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
WHERE Human Rights Watch, 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. (Dupont Circle Metro, Q Street Exit)
Jo Becker is also the founding chairperson of the international Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. In 2002, she helped research the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Burma for Human Rights Watch’s report, “My Gun was as Tall as Me: Child Soldiers in Burma.” This year, she oversaw a follow-up investigation resulting in the new report, which was just released on October 31, 2007.
To RSVP contact Jon Cohen at 202-612-4338, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.
All comments are strictly off the record. The Burma Roundtable is a gathering of NGOs, Congressional staff, administration officials and concerned individuals that meets periodically to discuss human rights, humanitarian assistance and other issues in Burma.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Everyone is invited and encouraged, to attend the Vigil. For further information, contact Dong Khup at: email@example.com
"Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions, courage that could be described as "grace under pressure" — grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure." - Aung San Suu Kyi
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The International Burmese Monks Organisation was formed in Los Angeles, California, on 28 October at a gathering of 49 monks from North America, Asia and Europe.
The director of the new group is U Kaweida, a monk lecturer from Masoeyein monastery in Mandalay who was detained by the Burmese government after the 1988 uprising and now lives in New York.
Another high-profile monk, U Pyinya Wuntha, is the chairperson of the organisation.
The monks had originally planned to meet on Sunday to celebrate U Pyinya Wuntha’s 80th birthday and 50 years of his work promoting Buddhism around the world.
But in light of the demonstrations in Burma led by monks and the crackdown on protesting monks and civilians the focus of the gathering was changed.
U Pyinya Wuntha said that the organisation was formed as a response to the harassment, detention and ill-treatment of monks in Burma by the regime.
Many people inside Burma had asked monks to get together to bring this issue to the attention of international governments and Buddhist groups from all over the world.
“We are going to raise awareness about the issues inside Burma with the relevant governments,” U Pyinya Wuntha said.
“We will pass this message not only to Buddhist groups, but also to Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths to give help to the monks inside Burma,” he said.
Burmese monks in Sri Lanka released a statement yesterday offering their enthusiastic cooperation to the new group and expressing their belief that it will be able to help find a solution to the political and social issues inside Burma.
They were joined in their support by monks in Rangoon, Mandalay, Myin Chan, and Pakokku.
Four Burmese artists living in exile also expressed their support for the newly formed organisation.
The four were Kyemon U Thaung, a Bangkok-based journalist and head of the New Era journal, poet Maung Swan Ye, US-based director, writer and painter Win Pe and Mar Mar Aye, a singer and former head of the state Music Association, also now based in the US.
“We vow to follow the monk’s orders and accept whatever duties are given to us by the monks,” the artists’ group said.
Reporting by DVB
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Now more than ever, people in Burma need to know that they are not alone in their struggle for freedom and human rights. The military junta waits for the international pressure for political change that has followed the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations last month to dissipate. We cannot let this happen.
Join us on November 4, 2007 at the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington , D.C. from 5:00 -7:30 pm. Come hear and be moved by personal stories and reflections from people who have been deeply involved in the Burma Struggle. Come honor the many faces of this struggle.
In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd at this site. Join us in delivering our message of compassion and hope to the world in support of a free and democratic Burma .
Click on the image to download, print and disseminate
There is no lightin closed at dusk. This night we used the light of the full moon as it rose over the mg at the Amitabha Stupa or throughout the Peace Park so it generally isountains to illuminate our path. The photojournalist from the local newspaper was there, too, and sent the awesome photographs that are posted on this blog. Keeping the aperture open seems to produce interesting results.
The Burmese activists have been working tirelessly for many weeks and seemed happy to be with a group of people who are trying to help their cause. They also loved the Stupa!
Burma is important. Please keep yourself abreast of current events there as they seem to be shifting about almost on a daily basis, the outcome of which still seems to be up for grabs. Maybe with enough effort we can help move the potential outcome towards freedom and compassion!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Rangoon - Detained Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was taken to a government guest house on Thursday to meet with the designated liaison official of the ruling junta.
Official cars arrived at her home, where she has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, around 2 pm and took her to the Sein Le Kantha guest house to meet with retired general U Aung Kyi, according to sources who requested anonymity.
Aung Kyi is the country's labour minister, recently appointed to be a liaison with the democracy leader after the junta bent to pressure from the United Nations to ease tensions following a brutal crackdown on street protests last month.
It was unclear whether the unusual meeting represented a breakthrough toward negotiations to ease military rule, or if the junta was merely paying lip service to international calls for leniency for Suu Kyi.
She has been under house arrest for three separate periods: from 1989 to 1995, from 2000 to 2002 and from May 2003 until now. Her father was a hero of the independence struggle against Britain and was the country's first prime minister before being assassinated in 1947.
Thursday also marked the end of her 12th year of detention, and was accompanied by protests in several world capitals and growing diplomatic pressure for her release and a transition to democracy.
Self-appointed Burmese generals rule the pariah state with an iron fist, and are said to have personal loathing for the dissident Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take over the government.
Street demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September ended in a brutal crackdown and the arrest of several hundred monks and civilians. The government said 10 people had died in the unrest, but independent observers claimed the number of victims was much higher.
Burma's religious affairs minister also met with senior monks of the country's Buddhist orthodoxy Thursday to explain the crackdown on the protests, and said the arrests of some monks were necessary to keep order. (dpa)
Monday, October 22, 2007
Come and show your support for the people of Burma. You will be joined by the Burmese community from the Washington, D.C. metroplex area, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Support the Saffron Revolution to:
Show the Burmese Military Junta that the world is always watching!
Demand that the International Community take action immediately!
Demonstrate to the people of Burma that you support them!
For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, (260) 443-5150, (571) 235-4035 or (301) 520-4160; National Coalition Government of Burma: (301) 424-4810
Sunday, October 21, 2007
In Burma, this occasion is a great holiday: people light millions of candles in commemoration of the Buddha's radiance. They light up their homes, their trees, and their shops. They light candles particularly at monasteries and pagodas--places of spiritual refuge. In celebration of the Buddha's presence in the world, people try to stay awake until dawn. There is music and feasting.
This year, the celebration may not look the same as in years past, in an environment of intimidation and suppression of the people. Whole urban monasteries have been emptied out, their monastics either arrested or dispersed to the countryside. If the people can get out to the holy places, they will find many of them desecrated.
We invite you to support the people of Burma with prayer on this occasion. On that evening, at Kunzang Palyul Choling Buddhist temple in Poolesville, Maryland, we will "Light the Way for Burma," with offerings of lights at the Enlightenment Stupa along with meditation and prayers for peace. For more details on this event, click here.
Why not make an occasion of it yourself, wherever you are? Invite your friends and family, turn inward in prayer and meditation, and turn on the outdoor lights for the people of Burma.
What if people all over the world did the same thing that night? What if so many lights were on that it could be seen in space? Leave the lights on for Burma! Let the satellite eyes in the sky show the people of Burma that the world supports them on this special night.
What if astronaut Schweickart (see previous posting) went back to orbiting the earth on Friday October 26th and reports to us that North Africa was all lit up, and so was the Middle East, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans … all in support of the people of Burma?
Friday, October 19, 2007
BUT UP THERE you go around every hour and a half, time after time after time. You wake up usually in the mornings, over the Middle East and over North Africa. As you eat breakfast you look out the window and there's the Mediterranean area, Greece and Rome and North Africa and the Sinai, that whole area. And you realize that in one glance what you're seeing is what was the whole history of humankind for years - the cradle of civilization. And you go down across North Africa and out over the Indian Ocean and you look up at that great subcontinent of India pointed down toward you as you go past it, Ceylon off to the side, then Burma, Southeast Asia, out over the Philippines and up across that monstrous Pacific Ocean, that vast body of water - you've never realized how big that is before. And you finally come up across the coast of California, and you look for those friendly things, Los Angeles and Phoenix, and on across to El Paso. And there's Houston, there's home, you know, and you look out, and you identify with it.... And you go out across the Atlantic Ocean and back across Africa, and you do it again and again and again... And it all becomes friendly to you.
And you identify with Houston and then you identify with Los Angeles and Phoenix and New Orleans. And the next thing you recognize in yourself is that you're identifying with North Africa. You look forward to it, you anticipate it, and there it is. And that whole process of what it is you identify with begins to shift. When you go around the Earth in an hour and half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with the whole thing. And that makes a change.
You look down there and you can't imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don't even see them. There you are - hundreds of people in the Middle East killing each other over some imaginary line that you're not even aware of, that you can't see. And from where you see it, the thing is a whole, the earth is a whole, and it's so beautiful. You wish you could take a person in each hand, one from each side in the various conflicts, and say, "Look. Look at it from this perspective. Look at that. What's important?"
And a little later on, your friend goes out to the moon. And now he looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but now he sees the Earth as a small thing out there. And the contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and the black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through, and the size of it, the significance of it. It is so small and so fragile and such a precious little spot in the universe that you can block it out with your thumb. And you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you - all love, tears, joy, games, all of it on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb. And you realize from that perspective that you've changed, that there's something new there, that the relationship is no longer what it was.
Friday, October 12, 2007
It is being hosted by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)(Southeast Asia Studies Program)and Amnesty International.
Will Davis, United Nations Information Center
A Representative from the U.S. State Department
T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia & Pacific, Amnesty International USA
Location: Rome Building, Rome Auditorium, 1619 Massachusetts Avenue, NW (Johns Hopkins University-SAIS), Washington, D.C.
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to email@example.com or phone (202)663-5837 or fax (202)663-7711.
Originally scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., take note that it will now begin at 4 p.m.
SAIS together with the U.S. Institute of Peace also hosted a seminar "Burma's Saffron Revolution: Next Steps" on October 11, 2007. You can download or listen to audio from this event here.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Meet in front of the Burmese Embassy (2300 S Street NW, Washington DC). Then we'll go to the White House for a Candlelight Vigil held by members of the Vietnamese American Community who support the people of Burma.
Please continue to stand with the people of Burma.
Monday, October 8, 2007
- how and where you can take action;
- strategic and powerful articles and other media; and,
- inspirational pieces to keep us committed to stand with the people of Burma.
Senator Joe Lieberman had an Op-Ed piece in the New York Daily News (October 3rd issue) that is worth posting for our readers' information and reflections on the situation.
How American power can help bring peace to Burma
New York Daily News Op-Ed
Over the past weeks, the world has watched in awe and admiration as hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens, led by Buddhist monks, have taken to the streets to protest the vicious dictatorship that rules their country.
These courageous individuals have risked their lives for the fundamental freedoms that are the entitlement of all mankind.
Last week, the military junta responded to these peaceful protests with indiscriminate violence, shooting into crowds of demonstrators and clubbing and tear-gassing others.
Although the regime is doing everything in its power to muffle the cries of its victims and suppress the images of their repression, it is clear that hundreds of monks are now in detention, Buddhist monasteries are under siege, journalists have been attacked and arrested - and reports of far, far worse have begun to trickle out.
One Burmese general reportedly said, "The bodies can be counted in several thousand."
Every responsible nation has a duty to send a clear and unmistakable message: The military junta must stop its cruel and bloody war on the people of Burma and begin a peaceful dialogue with the dissidents and democrats it has so brutally oppressed.
Unfortunately, the foreign governments with the most leverage over the junta have also been the least willing to use it.
The Russian government has defended the dictatorship, issuing a statement last week - just before the bloody crackdown began - that warned against outside "interference" in Burma's "domestic affairs."
The performance of the Indian government has also been a disappointment; its army chief of staff just dismissed the junta's repression as an "internal matter."
It is the People's Republic of China, however, that enjoys the closest ties with Burma. Beijing is the junta's principal arms supplier, providing 90% of its weapons, and sustains its rulers in power with lucrative business deals and economic assistance. Given this special relationship, the Chinese government has unique authority and ability to restrain its client - or run the risk of being tarred by its sins.
Even as we press our foreign friends to do more, however, we must not allow the inaction of other governments to become an excuse for our own inaction. As we learned in the Balkans a decade ago, promises of continuing diplomacy are sometimes not enough. The United States must also think hard about how we can use our own national power to help the Burmese people against their tyrannical rulers.
It is encouraging that the U.S. government has already doubled its radio broadcasts into Burma through Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
But we must do much more. To begin with, the United States must turn the full spectrum of its intelligence-gathering capabilities on Burma to monitor, document and publicize what is happening on the ground.
The soldiers who are being ordered to carry out and enforce this bloody crackdown must know that they are being watched and listened to, and their names are being recorded. The men who wear the uniform of this regime must be made to understand that the day will come when they may be judged before a court of their victims, and when that day arrives, there will be ample evidence of the crimes they commit.
The Bush administration should also actively investigate how else our military and intelligence capabilities can be used to put additional stress on the regime. The junta has tried to cut off the ability of peaceful demonstrators to communicate to the outside world through the Internet and cell phone networks; we should be examining how the junta's ability to command and control its forces throughout the country might itself be disrupted.
Above all, Americans must not forget the faces of the brave men and women who have marched for democracy these past weeks. As the fortunes of freedom in Burma hang in the balance, the United States has a solemn duty to continue to carry the torch of their cause.
Lieberman, an independent, is U.S. senator from Connecticut. The link to this article is here
Friday, October 5, 2007
Burma's Saffron Revolution - Next Steps
Date: Thursday, October 11, 2007
Time: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Johns Hopkins University/SAIS, Auditorium- Rome Building
1619 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
Forty-five years of military rule have left Burma in a state of arrested political and economic development, largely without the means to break free of the military's stranglehold and build the foundations of stable, viable democracy. Drawing from a study and observations of conditions before and during the cataclysmic events this August-September, discussion will center on the impact of the saffron revolution protests on the regime domestically and the effectiveness of different forms of international engagement on bringing about change. Five panelists with different backgrounds focus on the critical question, "What is to be done?"
Former U.S. Charge d'Affaires, Burma
China Studies, Johns Hopkins-SAIS
Senate Foregn Relations Committee
Bo Hla Tint
National League for Democracy (NLD) MP-Elect, Minister, Office of the Prime Minister (USA), National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)
Southeast Asia Studies, Johns Hopkins-SAIS
Eugene Martin, Moderator
U.S. Institute of Peace
Please contact Ian Larsen (+1.202.429.3870) or Lauren Sucher (+1.202.429.3822) in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
To RSVP, please send your name, affiliation, daytime phone number, and name of the event to Peter Rockwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION: SECURITY COUNCIL MUST ACT NOW
When: Saturday, October 6, 5 pm
Where: Union Square, New York City
Who: US Campaign for Burma
Contact: Farheen Malik at 714 473 2708
This Saturday marks a Global Day of Action to support the monks' protests in Burma by demanding UN Security Council action. In over 35 countries around the world on this day, people are coming together to condemn the Burmese military junta's violent suppression of peaceful protesters. Join us on Saturday in Union Square to take part in this worldwide event, as the US Campaign for Burma and several other Burma groups show their solidarity for the Saffron Revolution. Please WEAR THE COLOR RED, and BRING AS MANY RED FLOWERS AS YOU CAN. The flowers will be used to create a public display of tribute to those who have sacrificed so much in Burma these past weeks - all of those untold hundreds of thousands who put their lives on the line to bring down the military regime. Many lost their lives, many are imprisoned, and many are in hiding. On Saturday, the Global Day of Action will honor their courage. We will call for UN Security Council action, and we will distribute postcards giving people an opportunity to pledge their boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games. China must stop vetoing Security Council action.
For more information, contact Farheen Malik at
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Saturday 6TH OCTOBER 2007
Time: 12 NOON in every major city across the world
We are marching in solidarity with the monks and ordinary people of Burma who are risking their lives for freedom and democracy.
We appeal to all religious and secular communities across the world not to look the other way while the people of Burma cry out for international support.
Wear RED to show your support for the monks and nuns of Burma.
For more details on locations world-wide – please check out:
Support the monks' protest in Burma
“Please use your liberty, to promote ours”
- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
To the Chinese Govenment
To the UN
Take Action to Free Aung San Suu Kyi
The Burma Campaign UK: Campaigning for Human Rights and Democracy in Burma
Email the EU President at http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/eu_action.html
US Campaign for Burma
Call for Immediate Action Against the Burmese Military Regime
Stand with the Burmese protestors.
Release Myanmar Protestors
Some UK Petitions:
You must be a British citizen or resident to sign this petition
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/BurmaPeace/ (deadline to sign up: 4 October 2007)
Saturday October 6 12 noon in every major city across the world:
A Day of International Action for a Free Burma
Free Aung San Suu Kyi & Support the Monks in Burma
“We are marching in solidarity with the monks and ordinary people of Burma who are risking their lives for freedom and democracy.
We appeal to all religious and secular communities across the world not to look the other way while the people of Burma cry out for international support.”
Official Dates and Places (Cities / Countries) will be listed soon. (See http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=4973307490)
Suggestions for Protest Signs: Honor Burmese Monks and Nuns -Stop the Bloodshed -
Start a Revolution of Compassion - Compassion is Revolution
Read below the eloquent and moving statement from Than Lwin Htun from the VOA (Voice of America) before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Special Update on Burma, held on Wednesday October 3rd.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Caucus:
Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the current situation in Burma. I understand you would like me to stay focused on what is happening today and how I see the situation unfolding in the days and weeks ahead. Let me also mention that the comments I will make today reflect my personal views, and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.
To begin: the Burmese Foreign Minister at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday said, “normalcy has returned in Burma.” The question I would like to ask is “what kind of normalcy” is he referring to? I am certain he does not mean to say Burma is “quiet.”
Let’s have a quick look at the situation on the streets in Rangoon and other cities to see if normalcy prevails.
Several VOA reporters in the region and other news agencies report that the situation is anything but normal. Just this morning, residents in Mandalay, the second largest city in Burma, told us many monks who participated in street protests were picked up at night from their monasteries. A Burmese news journal editor told us that many journalists were stopped on the streets and their cell phones and digital cameras were searched. Also this morning, Mr. Paul Paisley, a World Food Program official in Bangkok, told us that merchants in the countryside could not transport rice and other staple food to the cities due to skyrocketing transportation costs.
The junta says only ten people have died (including a Japanese reporter). Diplomats in Rangoon are estimating as many as 100 may have been killed. But my “88” generation sources in Rangoon have already published the names of 138 people who have perished at the hands of the army last week. All of this reminds me of my days in 1988 when I was a student activist in Burma and the government was saying only 200 or so so-called “looters” had been killed, but my colleagues and I knew for sure that over 3,000 peaceful demonstrators had died.
Of course the streets are now empty and the visible protests have been quashed. But the scene is not at all tranquil: thousands of heavily armed soldiers are on patrol, manning all the key intersections and important public gathering places like the holy Sule and Shwedagon pagodas in Rangoon. These are the sites where many monks and ordinary Burmese were beaten up or gunned down during last week’s demonstrations. Is a situation “normal” when barbed wire fences are everywhere? Is it “normal” for all intersections to be barricaded and for all people leaving and entering the city to be searched and harassed by soldiers? Why are so many shops and businesses still closed? Why are the classrooms in the schools empty if it is not because parents are afraid of sending their kids to school?
The top U.S. diplomat in Rangoon in an interview with VOA Burmese Service yesterday morning told us, “It is quiet here; people are too scared to go onto the roads. We visited several monasteries and found so many of them to be empty and guarded by security forces blocking public access.” In summary, the only truth in the claim of the Foreign Minister that Burma is back to normal is that it has resumed to being a country of fear. For too many years, fear has been the “normal” state of affairs in Burma.
The second question I would like to address is whether all the dissent and the desire to change Burma to a democracy have all been ended. It is understandable that with such an extreme use of violence, people might be scared to continue their struggle so openly. The discontent of the people has taken deeper root than ever. They are suffering as much as ever before, if not more. Commodity prices are still as high as ever, if not higher. Plus they have fewer human rights than they did before this crisis. Their resentment is so strong that it is only a question of time before it erupts again in some as yet unforeseeable way.
My understanding is that monks do not need to protest in the streets to carry out the religious boycott they started on September 19. Let me explain this important point: the military is powerful because they have guns; the monks’ power resides in their contributions to the religious life of every Burmese. The majority of the 400,000 soldiers in the Burmese army are Buddhists. They are going to want to practice their religion. The religious boycott means all the soldiers, the authorities to whom they report, and their families are no longer eligible to participate in Buddhist rituals. In other words, to apply Western terms to the situation in Burma, they will be “shunned” or “excommunicated” by the religious clergy. They will have nowhere to go to worship. The monks’ goal is to punish the army for its actions. But I believe the boycott might lead to a split in the army, perhaps even at the top. Many thousands of soldiers regard Buddhism as their shield, as their protection against any kind of danger. Without their shield, they will be vulnerable and open to harm. They might not want to remain banished forever.
The result of the boycott might be a split in the army. In the past few days we have heard of troops refusing orders to shoot or beat monks. At the height of tension in the first week, sources close to the Army said the number two general, General Maung Aye, had been telling his close subordinates to exercise leniency. Sources also suggest several Army commanders may have been arrested for being too lenient or refusing to carry out the orders of General Than Shwe. The religious boycott might, therefore, in my opinion, further exacerbate the fissures that already exist inside the military. Both First Lady Laura Bush and Chairman Lantos last week encouraged the soldiers to think about their actions. Mrs. Bush called on them not to shoot the demonstrators but to “join the movement.” Chairman Tom Lantos added to this point by encouraging Burmese Army leaders who want to side with the democracy movement to choose this particular time to make their move. He said it would be a “turning point in history” if they did so.
What can the international community do? At the government-to-government level, everyone is waiting to see the results of UN Special Envoy Gambari’s discussions with General Than Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this week. It was good that he was allowed to see both of them and engage in a form of “shuttle diplomacy.” But so far there is not even the slightest hint of compromise on the part of the junta. The Burmese Foreign Minister’s speech to the United Nations confirmed that Burma will not heed the international community and will continue to seek its own path, no matter what. This is what is meant by the so-called “road map to democracy.” Mr. Gambari was even shown a public rally by supporters of the constitution drafted by the junta. There seems to be little or no hope that the junta will ever respond to the type of international pressure that has been brought to bear so far. Not even the United Nations makes a difference or even a small dent in the determination of the Burmese generals to ignore world opinion. Any effort on their part to “spin” international opinion by offering talks, visits or other window dressing designed to mislead everyone will not lead to change. For this reason, the US government has announced that it will intensify sanctions and has called on other key players – the EU, ASEAN, China and India – to join the effort to bring democracy to Burma. Meanwhile Burma cannot expect China to defend it as staunchly as usual against increasing international pressure. The junta will surely feel more and more pressured and isolated.
At the grass roots level, although the events in Burma were so ugly, they generated tremendous international attention and sympathy. The whole world was shocked by the violence. Fortunately, the world’s media was able to effectively communicate this sympathy and solidarity to the people of Burma. Not only international broadcasters but also famous newspapers, internet blogs, celebrities, religious leaders and millions of ordinary people around the world found ways to reach out and touch the people of Burma last week.
What we are doing at the Voice of America is to keep this communication going? We tell the world what is happening inside Burma. And we do our best to let all Burmese citizens know that they are not alone. We are proud to be able to empower the people of Burma with accurate news about how the world is responding to events inside Burma. We feel our reporting sustains the hope that they need to keep alive so that when their day finally arrives, they will prevail.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
- Burma’s Saffron Revolution: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 110th Congress, First Session (Time: 2:30 PM, Place: 419 The Dirksen Senate Office Building)
- Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Special Update: Burma (Time: 3:30 – 5:00 PM, Place: 2200 Rayburn House Office Building)
Details of both events, as received from the U.S. Campaign for Burma below:
"Jennifer Quigley, Burma Campaign"
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2007 16:20:41 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jennifer Quigley, Burma Campaign"
Subject: Burma Friends in DC, MD, and VA: Help Us Tomorrow (Wed.) in
We are asking for all of our friends in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC to attend a hearing in the US Senate tomorrow (Wednesday) and help us fill the room with people wearing the color red. For the front row of the hearing room, we have printed dozens of t-shirts that demand UN Security Council action. We need 30 people to meet at the fountain in front of Union Station at 1:00 pm. We will give you t-shirts so that you can sit in the front row at the hearing so that the media cameras will see you with your t-shirts. From Union Station, we will all walk to the hearing together.
We need to know who the 30 people are right away -- so please email me at email@example.com and let us know if you can be there. Bring your friends too. The hearing starts at 2:30 and we need to be there early to make sure we can get seats so be sure to be at Union Station at 1:00 if you want to help us wear the shirts.
If you can't be there early, show up on time but BE SURE TO WEAR A RED SHIRT IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE MONKS. LET’S PACK THE ROOM IN RED. You will still need to be there at least 45 minutes early so you can get a seat.
Other details on the hearing are below.
U.S. Campaign for Burma
1444 N Street NW, Suite A 2
Washington, DC 20005
BURMA'S SAFFRON REVOLUTION
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Time: 2:30 PM
Place: 419 The Dirksen Senate Office Building
Presiding: Senator Boxer
Mr. Scot Marciel
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Department of State
Ko Aung Din
Policy Director and Co-Founder
U.S. Campaign for Burma
Mr. Tom Malinowski
Washington Advocacy Director
Human Rights Watch
Mr. Michael Green
CSIS Japan Chair, former NSC Asia Director
Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Room: 2200 Rayburn
Please join the Congressional Human Rights Caucus for a special update on the current situation in Burma. The briefing will be held on Wednesday, October 3, 2007, from 3:30 – 5 p.m. in room 2200 Rayburn HOB. The briefing is open to the public and the media.
The despicable crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Burma last week and the current “silence of the graveyard” which the Burmese junta has imposed all over Burma has placed this country at the center of attention of the international community. Demonstrations following the cancellation of fuel subsidies in mid-August spread around the country and into the capital, culminated with 100,000 people marching for democracy on September 24. These peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks and prominent democracy and human rights activists, became the largest expression of the desire of the Burmese people for democracy, human rights, and freedom since the massacre of thousands of protestors in 1988. In addition to democratic reform, the over 100,000 people demanded the immediate and unconditional release of 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and that of all other political prisoners and religious leaders. Unfortunately, this heroic peaceful movement was brutally suppressed by a military crackdown that has killed over 200 protesters and left hundreds of people severely injured. Democracy and human rights groups further estimate that over 2,000 have been arrested, imprisoned, and/or tortured as part of this violent crackdown.
The Burmese people have long suffered under the oppressive rule of a military junta, which renamed itself from the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997. Following a military coup after the 1990 democratic elections, the victorious National League for Democracy (NLD) was not allowed to assume office, and NLD leader and Prime Minister-elect Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. The military junta has turned this once thriving country into one of the world’s worst police states, in which Burmese citizens do not enjoy even the most basic human rights. Extrajudicial killings, rape, drug trafficking and attacks on ethnic minorities are common place. The Burmese press is state controlled and will only report the official government view.
The Burmese dictatorship has destroyed more than 3,000 villages and created 2 million displaced persons in the past decade and a half, creating strong international criticism. The Burmese military regime has caused such international concerns that it was placed on the permanent agenda of the United Nations Security Council and was subject to unusual public and harsh criticism by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
To discuss these important issues, we welcome as expert witnesses:
Bo Hla-Tint, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
Than Lwin Htun, Voice of America Burmese Service
Alex Arriaga, Amnesty International
Jennifer Quigley, U.S. Campaign for Burma
We look forward to seeing you at this important briefing. If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Burns (Rep. Lantos) at x5-3531 or Hilary Hosford (Rep. Wolf) at x5-5136. For media inquiries, please call Lynne Weil at x5-5021.
TOM LANTOS, M.C., Co-Chair, CHRC
FRANK R. WOLF, M.C., C0-Chair, CHRC
Senior Professional Staff Member -- Majority
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Exec. Director, Congressional Human Rights Caucus
2170 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
Direct: 202-225-4819; Cell: 202-316-3905; Fax: 202-225-2136
We are deeply dismayed to see the military crackdown on Buddhist monks, nuns and other protestors in
We intend to serve as a clearinghouse for information on the protests from a Buddhist perspective, and let individual citizens know what specific actions they can take to make a difference. Our main website is: www.buddhistrelief.org .
We will use this blog to provide constant updates so that you may be informed of ways you can make a difference. You CAN make a difference. The following event has just been announced:
Meditate for Peace and Democracy in
Thursday, October 4, 2007
In Front of the Embassy of
2300 S Street, NW,
Like many around the world, we are moved and shaken by the recent events in
Amidst the turmoil of these powerful emotions, we feel an urgent need to look for ways to not only nurture compassion and loving kindness that brings peace to our own hearts and minds but also express solidarity with the people of
Please join us in our Meditation for Peace and Democracy in
· Honor the Buddhist monks and nuns who have taken leadership to end oppression and hardship under the military dictatorship
· Honor the many who lost their lives in their acts of courageous defiance
· Honor the hundreds who are injured, imprisoned, and tortured
· Show solidarity with the people of
· Fill the hearts and minds of soldiers with compassion
· Free the constricted minds and hearts of the generals of destructive greed, insecurity, and fear
· Encourage the international community, particularly those nations that have influence with the Burmese generals, to do all in their power to help bring about peace and democracy in
Please wear red/maroon shawl or covering and feel free to bring meditation cushions. We will provide mats, candles, and tea.
MEDITATION FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY IN
Thursday October 4, 2007
5:00 Gather in front of the Embassy of Myanmar
Lighting of Candles
5:30 Welcome statement
5:45 Meditation—Session I
6:30 Tea Break
6:45 Meditation—Session II