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July 13, 2008

We are now less than a month away from one of the most important dates in the history of Burma. August 8th marks the 20th anniversary of the 8888 uprising and the following massacres. It is also  the day that China, the #1 supporter of the brutal Burmese military junta, will open the Beijing Olympics.

On August 8, 1988 University students in Rangoon began demonstrations which spread throughout Burma. The students were quickly joined by Burmese citizens from all walks of life, including government workers, Buddhist monks, customs officers, teachers and hospital staff. Soon, millions of people marched on the streets, protesting against the junta and calling for democracy. The 8888 uprising, named after the date it all began, ended abruptly on September 18 when the military regime responded to the demonstrations with brutal force, killing thousands of civilians and arresting hundreds of democracy activists.

In 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the  general election. However, the military junta ignored the election result, and the junta has stayed in power ever since, supported by powerful allies such as India and China.

Ever since 1988, the 8888 uprising has been a source of inspiration for the Burmese people. In September 2007, 20,000 people took to the streets of Rangoon calling for an end to the “evil dictatorship” in Burma. Alas, just as in 1988, the regime reacted with violence. While the exact number of protesters killed and arrested is not known, the government’s violent crackdown on the peaceful protests  certainly claimed hundreds of victims.

Prisoners of conscience

Min Ko Naing, Chairman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), one of the driving forces behind the 8888 Uprising,was arrested in 1989 and spent more than 16 years in prison. He was was finally released in 2004, but in August 2007, he was arrested again for leading protests in Rangoon. Since then, he has been held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison. He is reportedly suffering from a serious eye infection, and may go blind because he is being denied medical treatment.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained in her home without trial for 12 of the past 18 years, and the military government recently extended the duration of her house arrest yet again.

Alas, Min Ko Naing and Aung San Suu Kyi are far from the only political prisoners in Burma. According to Amnesty International, up to 700 people arrested during and after the September 2007 protests remain behind bars, and another 1,150 political prisoners held prior to the protests have still not been released.

Look to China!

After the brutal crackdown  on the protests last September, it seems like the world has once again forgotten about Burma.That is no doubt exactly what the military junta hopes for. It  is also what the Chinese regime wishes these days. China is one of Burma’s few important trade partners, as most of the world has  imposed economic sanctions on the brutal regime. As such, China is one of the few countries the Burmese military junta actually listen to. Sadly, the Chinese regime do not value democracy and human rights to highly, be it in China itself or in her neighboring countries – like Burma. China is a permanent member of the UN security council, and has every opportunity to work for a more democratic Burma. Alas, the Chinese regime has done exactly the opposite. Time and time again, China has blocked Security Council resolutions calling for global sanctions against the Burmese regime, showing clearly that democracy is the last thing the Chinese authorities want.

Do not forget Burma!

Luckily, not everyone has forgotten Burma or the Burmese people. Organizations like the US Campaign for Burma keep reminding us of the atrocities committed by the Burmese military junta – with the support of China – and I myself do what I can to make sure that at least the microscopic percentage of the blogosphere that reads my blog will not forget.

Inside Burma, many brave individuals are risking their lives in the struggle for a free, democratic Burma. They need all the help they can get from the outside world if they are to defeat one of the most brutal military regime the world has seen. Here is how you can help:

  • Send an email to the Beijing Olympic ticket office, letting them know that you will boycott the Beijing Olympics unless China ends it’s support of the Burmese regime.
  • Email the Olympic Corporate Sponsors, urging them to use their leverage to press China to end its support for Burma’s dictatorship.
  • Call for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other Burmese political prisoners.
  • Urge the Burmese authorities to allow immediate medical attention to Min Ko Naing and all political prisoners.
  • E-mail UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and tell him that you expect him to demand that Burma’s military regime stop arresting, imprisoning, torturing and even killing thousands of democracy activists.

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