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  Asia-Pacific
Raising Support for Democracy in Burma
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
Talk on India's Policy on Burma

It was an intense and intriguing session, where a group of conscious people got together and discussed about the present socio-political turmoil in Burma (Myanmar) and also the probable ways, by which the people from Northeast India can extend support for the cause of democracy in the neighbouring country.

The meeting on ‘India’s Policy on Burma: A Northeastern Perspective,’ was organized jointly by Burma Centre Delhi and Journalists’ Forum Assam at Guwahati Press Club on July 4, where Dr. Tint Swe, exile member of parliament, National Coalition Government of Union of Burma, joined as a main speaker.

Addressing the gathering, Dr. Tint Swe, an exile Member of Parliament, National Coalition Government of Union of Burma, argued that New Delhi should play a major role in democratization of Burma. The elected Parliamentarian (in 1990 general election of Burma), who has been living in India for more than a decade, did not forget to mention about the help and cooperation from Indian people in general and the Northeastern in particular in their endeavor.

“India being the largest democracy in the globe should review its policy on Burma and make it as pro-democratic movement,” insisted Dr. Tint Swe adding, “New Delhi should also review its Look East Policy, as the military dictators of Burma will never support the initiative to be successful.”

It may be mentioned that New Delhi maintains a sustained strategic relationship with the ruling State Peace and Development Council, under which a series of agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed. More over, the government of India remains silent on the
issue of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s re-arrest and trail, even though the great Lady was hounoured with Jawaharlal Nehru Peace Prize and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose award. The daughter of Aung San, the father of modern Burma, Suu Kyi was also awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, contrary to New Delhi’s policy on Burma, the civil society and advocacy groups of Northeast continue supporting the pro-democratic movement in the land of dictators. If the Union government is willing to engage the Burmese junta for various strategic and trade relationship, the student-youth-journalist and also political party workers of the region maintain their demands to snap all ties with the junta of Nay Pyi Taw (the new capital of Burma after Rangoon). They are also in unanimous in various public meetings
taking places in the region that the pro-democracy Burmese icon Suu Kyi must be released and allowed her to continue the political activities.

Mentionable that Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for nearly 13 years out of 19 years stay in her country. More recently, Suu Kyi was shifted to the Insein prison of Rangoon, where she has been tried at a special court with the charge of violating rules under her house arrest. Suu Kyi is recognized as one of the world's most renowned freedom fighters and the General Than Shwe led regime understood to try its best to prevent her (with her party National League for Democracy) participating in the forthcoming general election during
2010.

Earlier in an official message to the organizers from Houston, Rajen Barua of Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters argued that the people of Northeast ‘as a neighbour of Burma need to keep in touch with the people of Burma and especially the enlightened Burmese who are living outside their country.’

“We in the Northeast have more important roles to play. After all, we are very much concerned about the hardship that Suu Kyi is going through. We also urge the government of China, Russia and other countries with strong ties with Burma, to pressurize the military rulers for immediate release of Suu Kyi, so that she can freely move in Burma for advancement of democratic values and human rights,” the message, which was read out by Jayanta Barman in the Guwahati meeting,
added.

Meanwhile, in another message, the All Assam Students’ Union and the North East Students’ Organization leader Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya expressed their support to the pro-democracy movement in Burma and demanded release of Suu Kyi.

The meeting urged New Delhi to stop forthwith sales of all arms to the military rulers of Burma, who use the weapons to suppress the ever-growing movement for democracy in the country. It also demanded immediate release of over 2000 political prisoners in Burma including Suu Kyi. In another resolution, the participants argued that India should have a non-discriminatory refugee policy as early as possible.

The speakers including Dr Alana Golmei, M. Kim, Htun Htun from Burma Centre Delhi and journalists Rupam Baruah, Hiten Mahanta, Biman Hazarika, RK Goswami with others were of the opinion that trade relations between India and Burma should not be at the cost of the democratic movement in that country. Mentionable that, both the neighboring countries did business to the tune of nearly US $ 900
million in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

The major outcome of the meeting was the proposal to form a regional forum to pursue democracy in Burma. The proposed ‘Northeast India Forum for Democracy in Burma’ is supposed to provide space for the people of Northeast and Burma to join hands with an aim to continue the campaign against the military junta.

Similarly, few days back, hundreds of Mizo and Burmese activists organized a demonstration at Aizawl with the primary demand for an early release of Suu Kyi. Initiated by Mizoram Committee for Democracy in Burma, the programme on June 25 also included the decision to send a memorandum to the Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, through the State government of Mizoram-bordering Chin State of Burma-with an appeal to pursue with the Burmese government for the release of Suu Kyi and also restoration of democracy in Burma.

Mizoram gives shelter to over 50,000 Chin people from Burma. Most of them are economic migrants, who crossed the Indo-Burma border for a better future in India. Many of them are also activists, who fled their country to escape the repression of the junta. Amazingly, the Chin and Mizo people share similar historical, cultural and religious backgrounds. But time to time, the State witnesses resentment against
those unwelcome guests from Burma.

Representatives from the ruling Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee, Mizo National Front (the main opposition party of Mizoram), Zoram Nationalist Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Miozram Peoples Conference with Mizo Zirlai Pawl, Mizo Students' Union, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm
Pawl, Mizo Women Association, Human Rights & Law Network, People Union for Civil Liberties etc joined the programme.

Earlier more than hundred Indian MPs, including those from Northeast, called on the Union government to intervene for the release of Suu Kyi and for the restoration of democracy in Burma. The lawmakers under the banner Indian Parliamentarian Forum for Democracy in Burma submitted a
petition on 10 June to the Indian Prime Minister urging him to take personal interest to resolve the issue amicably.



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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at navathakuria@gmail.com

 

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