Saturday, July 19

So Far Just Literature

Members of Burma’s battered and disparate opposition are growing disillusioned with the old methods of the pro-democracy movement and are seeking ways to escalate their armed struggle.

“There is a very real debate among us about how to begin a more sustained armed struggle,” an organizer of last September’s failed uprising told the Guardian. “We are ready for that kind of action, if we can get the supplies and training that we need.”

Speaking from exile in Thailand, Soe Aung, the chief spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), an umbrella group representing nearly all facets of Burma’s disparate opposition, said he was witnessing a significant shift in the public attitude across Burma.

“After the September uprising and then the terrible cyclone response, the anger is surging. Some are considering violent means … the Burmese people are not that kind of people, there has been a real change.”

Soe Aung spoke openly of how covert Western support, primarily from the US state department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary the International Republican Institute (IRI), had been fundamental to the success of the uprising.

“The US is certainly doing the most for the opposition. There has been real success in training and forming an underground movement through religious organizations and monastic organizations. These provide the best cover inside Burma. The monks can spread their training very effectively.”

The NED describes itself as a private organization but was created by, and remains accountable to, the US Congress. Set up under the Reagan administration in 1983, it has since played a leading role in influencing civil society and electoral processes in countries around the world unfriendly to US interests.

According to Brian Joseph, the man in charge of the group’s Burma project, the NED gave $3million to Burma in 2007. “We would send more, but there is a limit to what you can do in Burma,” said Joseph.

Opposition activists both inside and outside Burma largely describe the improvements in political awareness and spread of information as a result of NED-funded projects, but also attribute them to the introduction of the internet to Burma in 2003.

“We could see in September how the advances were utilized. It wasn’t just the monks but a massive increase of awareness among Burmese of all types. This was thanks largely due to media organs, the Democratic Voice of Burma, satellite TV, and, of course, the internet,” said Soe Aung.


Wednesday, July 16

Press Release: National Council of the Union of Burma

The democratic movement of Burma will be challenging the credentials of the Burmese military junta at the 2008 United Nations General Assembly session and object to its right to represent Burma at the United Nations. Since the endeavor is aimed at prompting reforms in the country as well as protecting the people of Burma from the ruthless suppression of the junta, we call upon the nations of the world to cooperate with us and to extend their active support for the effort.

For decades, the people of Burma have been peacefully endeavoring for political reforms in the country but the successive military regimes been resorting to murder, intimidation, and oppression to overcome these endeavors and maintain their power through brute force. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), formerly known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), is commonly recognized to be one of the most repressive and secretive governments in the world. The SPDC refused to honor the results of the last legitimate elections in 1990, when Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won 80% of Parliamentary seats. Despite years of work by activists from both inside and outside Burma, efforts to foster a peaceful negotiated transition to a democratic civilian government have made little headway. To date, the junta's leadership has failed to honor any promises made with respect to democratic change and has instead increased measures to silence pro-democracy groups.

Over the last year, the international community has witnessed numerous demonstrations of the brutal and callous tactics the SPDC uses to maintain power, including the ruthless crackdown on peaceful monks and citizens calling for democratic reform in the Saffron Revolution; the disregard for human suffering in refusing international assistance following Cyclone Nargis; the illegal extension of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's confinement; and the fraudulent constitutional referendum conducted just days after Cyclone Nargis, even before the government assessed the damage from the storm. The injustice of these latest crimes is compounded when viewed in light of the junta's past atrocities, such as its violent repression of 1988 protests, its refusal to honor the 1990 elections, and its murder of NLD members in the 2003 Depayin massacre.

The most fundamental principle of democracy is that sovereignty rests with the people. Although the military junta has brutally oppressed the Burmese people and scoffed at the requests and demands of the international community, United Nations Member States have continued to extend the junta the privilege of illegally representing the people of Burma at the United Nations. Because the SPDC does not and cannot legitimately represent the state or people of Burma, it is now time to revoke its privilege of representing Burma to the United Nations.

The pro-democracy movement for Burma, united in coalition throughout the world, calls upon the Member States of the United Nations to stand up for the principles of democracy and human rights and reject the credentials of the SPDC's delegation to the United Nations during the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

Tuesday, July 1

Explosion July 1st

[Gleaned From Wire Services]

An explosion at dawn Tuesday rocked the office of a government-backed social welfare group whose members have been accused in attacks against Myanmar’s pro-democracy opposition, witnesses said. The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of official reprisal, said the blast occurred at the office of Union Solidarity and Development Association office in the northern Yangon suburb of Shwepyithar. I have done a good bit of teaching in this industrial suburb. No casualties were reported.

Residents in Shwepyithar said riot police and security officials swarmed into the area after the explosion.

No further details were immediately available, and there were no immediate claims of responsibility. The government has not blamed any group for the bombing.

The USDA, a social welfare organization which was formed 15 years ago , claims to have more than 23 million members out of a national population of 57 million. Its members often have been accused of involvement in attacks against supporters of the pro-democracy opposition.

The organization, headed by junta chairman Senior Gen. Than Shwe, is to be transformed into a political party when general elections are held in 2010. Currently, the USDA is engaged in a wide range of social activities, from organizing health treatment in rural areas to planting trees.

The last explosion in Yangon, the country’s largest city, occurred in April when two bombs damaged some parked cars but caused no casualties.

The government often blames such attacks on anti-government dissident groups and separate ethnic rebels seeking autonomy.

Terrorism is rare but not unknown in Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962.

In 1990, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a general election but was not allowed to take power by the military, which continues to tightly control the country.

Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest, has been in detention without trial for more than 12 of the past 18 years.