MYANMAR: Protest highlights struggles in Myanmar

Sunday 28 September 2014

Date: 24 September 2014

Type: News

Source: The Korea Times

Keywords: Myanmar human rights

By David Nicoll

A protest held Sunday outside the Myanmar Embassy in Seoul by the "All Ethnics Democracy and Human Rights Network," highlighted the seventh anniversary of the "September Uprising", also known around the world as the "Saffron Revolution." The network’s executive director, John S. Thang, explained the aims of the protest in a press release.

"Today marks the anniversary of the September Uprising which started in 2007. Many innocent people were killed by the Myanmar military junta, including monks and activists. We, strongly condemn the Myanmar military junta for crimes against humanity and human rights violations."

Myanmar is home to multiple ethnic groups, many of which work together demanding that the military government there end human rights violations, including the killing and torture of civilians, and the failure to provide an independent judicial system that causes the wrongful imprisonment of thousands of civilians.

"We want a permanent ceasefire...and an end to human rights violations and repression upon the ethnic people. We also want an amendment to the constitution."

Currently the constitution states that 25% percent of seats in the Myanmar parliament must be reserved for nonelected members of the military.

During three months beginning September 2007, peaceful street protests took place in the main cities of the Southeast Asian nation, mostly focused on the former capital Yangon. Led by thousands of monks dressed in saffron robes, there were initial hopes that the military dictatorship would eventually stand down. However, on September 26, the junta began a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of what John Thang says amounted to thousands of people, while many more disappeared.

Additional to the killing of civilians, the network also highlights further human rights violations including, repression of religious freedom, oppression of free speech and the right of assembly.

Thang said it is almost impossible to have dialogue with staff in the Myanmar embassy here.

"The embassy usually doesn’t accept our phone calls and I have no idea if they read our press releases that we put in the embassy mail box," he said.

In the absence of support from his country’s government, Thang appealed for support from the government of South Korea and the international community. "We ask for not just vocal support for human rights in our country but implementation of support in the form of financial aid to support democratic activism. The government of Korea already provides funding for human rights development in North Korea and ideally we would like such funding to be provided for change in Myanmar."

Other governments and political entities, including the United States through USAID already provide financial aid to support working with the government of Myanmar on democratic development and human rights. President Barack Obama in November 2012 pledged $170 million in financial aid over two years for use in supporting priority needs in Myanmar including improving human rights.

But Thang said that it is not only governments that can offer financial assistance.

"Ordinary people can support and may be interested to donate money. But also we recognize that we don’t want to compete with the needs of their own people, including helping the homeless."###

See online : The Korea Times

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