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  Asia-Pacific
Round-the-clock Burma Vigil in Parliament Square, UK
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
Exiled pro-democracy activists in support of the people's movement inside Burma demonstrated in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo Courtesy of Mizzima

The Burmese exiled community in UK is holding an ongoing round-the-clock vigil in Parliament Square in solidarity with the intensified pro-democracy struggles in Burma. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has mobilized Christians to join the Burmese exiled community in this Burma vigil every Monday evening until December 2007.

On Saturday 6 October 2007, thousands of people marched in London in the biggest ever demonstration for Burma held in the UK, and joined a rally in Trafalgar Square. With Christians joining the Burma vigil on every Monday evening, Muslims, Buddhists, trade unionists and other communities are joining the Burma vigil on other days of the week.

When monks took to streets in Burma last month, the world's spotlight came on the decades-long ongoing pro-democracy movement within the country. Despite and in-spite of all control-measures of Junta Government in Burma (State Peace and Development Council), it is impossible to freeze information flow of human rights excesses. Unlike the way it succeeded in crushing the pro-democracy movement in 1988, this time the 'world is watching'!

Interestingly the ongoing struggles in Burma have given a strong beam of hope and vigour to similar pro-democracy movements going near its North-East border of India.

People in UK had also come out in support of pro-democracy movement led by Irom Chanu Sharmila in Manipur – a North-Eastern Indian state. They were fasting in solidarity.

The minimum pre-requisite of many people's movements around the world in recent past has been a singular demand –free Aung San Suu Kyi! She is imprisoned under the 1975 State Protection Act in Myanmar (Burma), which grants the government the power to imprison persons for up to five years without a trial. She has been intermittently under arrest of one kind or the other since 1990.

By 1988, Burma was burgeoning with pro-democracy movement, fueled by the energy and idealism among the country's young people. There were demonstrations against the repressive, one-party socialist government. Aung San Suu Kyi was drawn into the pro-democracy movement, which was snuffed out by State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which seized power on September 18, 1988. Thousands of pro-democracy advocates were killed.

Next came a general election in 1990, which political parties were allowed to contest. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was leading the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory, with 80 percent support. SLORC leaders refused to accept the election results putting the elected pro-democracy leaders under house arrest, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Despite the restrictions of house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi continues to campaign for democracy. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1991.

The alignment of people's voices not only within Burma but globally is a positive development.

Only time can tell whether the voices of common people will be heard or the state will continue to trample over people's rights with anti-people laws and policies.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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