AJWS Stands with the People of Burma

 

AJWS Stands with the People of Burma

October 12, 2007

In what some journalists are calling the “Saffron Revolution,” revered Buddhist clergy in Burma are leading the largest public demonstrations against the military regime since 1988, despite violent repercussions by the Burmese government.

On Monday, September 24, over 100,000 people from all walks of life poured into the streets of Rangoon, the country’s largest city and former capital. On Wednesday, September 26, the government of Burma began a violent crackdown on demonstrators, including firing shots in the air, tear gassing and clubbing participants, and arresting hundreds. Reports indicate that two to seven people have been killed. Thousands are defying the crackdown, continuing to protest in Rangoon.

AJWS supports the monks, nuns and civilians who are nonviolently protesting Burma’s repressive regime, and defends our partners who are working to bring an end to Burma’s conflict and ensure that displaced communities have access to health care, education and livelihoods.

AJWS joins with people supporting democracy around the world in calling on Burma’s government, the State Peace and Development Council, to restrain from the use of force in coming days, release all political prisoners and begin a genuine dialogue with the National League for Democracy and ethnic opposition groups as a first step for meaningful political and economic reform.

Demonstrations in Burma began on August 19, with citizens protesting against the sharp and sudden increase in fuel prices initiated by the regime. The price hike, in which cooking gas prices were raised by more than 500% and petrol prices were doubled, had immediate repercussions as Burma’s already impoverished people found themselves struggling to cook or travel to work. Over 200 activists have been detained since August 19 and many more are in hiding.

Now, the involvement of a massive number of monks increases the pressure on the Burmese government, as monks are highly revered in Burma. Monks are participating in “excommunicative boycotts,” refusing alms from members of the Burmese military, government and their families. Some monks are marching with their alms bowls turned upside down, a symbol of refusal to receive offerings of food and rice.

This week, monks also marched to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy and Nobel Prize winner, who is currently under house arrest. More than 1,000 monks and nuns and 400 civilians stood outside of Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, chanting a prayer for peace while police stood by. In a rare public appearance, Suu Kyi greeted protesters while surrounded by riot police. It is being reported that Suu Kyi has now been moved from her home to a prison. Women like Aung San Suu Kyi have been at the forefront of Burma’s resistance movements and remain essential stakeholders in meaningful change inside Burma.

In addition to the demonstrations in urban areas, the movement also has civilian participation in ethnic areas where AJWS grantees work. The Karen Human Rights Group reports that a growing movement of local anti-regime demonstrations has also emerged in Karen State, where more than 300 Buddhist and Christian Karen villagers gathered together on September 24 to share information about the country-wide protest movement, express their solidarity with the anti-regime sentiment and offer prayers for peace and reconciliation.

AJWS will be escalating its activities in support of the democratic movement in Burma. Please check back to our Web site soon to find out more. To learn more about the history of conflict in Burma and AJWS' response, please click here.