Plan offers aid to free Burma’s prisoners

From The Washington Post

The United Nations has embarked on a strategy to entice Burma’s generals to free more than 2000 political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, by offering them more development money.

According to senior UN officials, special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has proposed that nations offer Burma financial incentives to free the prisoners and to open the country to democratic change. In the months ahead, the UN leadership will press the Barack Obama’s administration to relax US policy on Burma to open the door to a return of international financial institutions, including the World Bank.

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Burma Seeks to Repress New Opposition Movement

From Spiegel Online
By Thilo Thielke

Students in Burma’s universities have been painting red crosses on walls and traffic lights to signal disgust with the country’s ruling junta. But the regime is quick to crush even the slightest hint of resistance.

The culprits came shortly before midnight. It was raining, and the traffic was light on Uyza Road in downtown Rangoon at this late hour. They sprinted across the street, pulled out their spray cans, painted a red cross onto a yellow traffic sign and disappeared into the darkness again.

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In shadow of Olympics, Myanmar mourns failed ’88 uprising

From AFP

As China celebrates the start of the Olympics on Friday with much fanfare, activists in neighbouring Myanmar will silently mourn the bloody end of an uprising that crushed their dreams of democracy 20 years ago.

In August 1988, cities and villages across the country then known as Burma were bursting with optimism.

The military dictator Ne Win had just stepped down after decades of iron-fisted rule, and Burma was inspired by a prophecy that it would become a free nation on August 8 — known as 8-8-88.

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Happy 63rd Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi!

Brief Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi (from US Campaign For Burma)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Daw Aung Sawn Sue Chee) is one of the world’s most renown freedom fighters and advocates of nonviolence, having served as the figurehead for Burma’s struggle for democracy since 1988. Born on June 19th, 1945 to Burma’s independence hero, Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi was educated in Burma, India, and the United Kingdom. Her father was assassinated when she was only two years old.

In 1988, while living in London, she returned to Burma to nurse her dying mother, and was plunged into the country’s nationwide uprising that had just begun. Joining the newly-forming National League for Democracy political party, Suu Kyi gave numerous speeches calling for freedom and democracy. The military regime responded to the uprising with brute force, shooting and otherwise killing up to 10,000 demonstrators — student, women, children, and others — in a mater of months. Unable to maintain its grip on power, the regime was forced to call for a general election in 1990.

As Suu Kyi began to campaign for the NLD, she and many others were detained by the regime. Despite being held under house arrest, the NLD went on to win a staggering 82% of the seats in parliament. The regime never recognized the results.

Suu Kyi has been in and out of arrest ever since. She was held from 1989-1995, and again from 2000-2002. She was again arrested and placed behind bars in May 2003 after the Depayin massacre, during which up to 100 of her supporters were beaten to death by the regime’s cronies. She has moved from prison back into house arrest in late 2003 and has been held there ever since.

She has won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Jawaharlal Nehru Award from India. She has called on people around the world to join the struggle for freedom in Burma, saying “Please use your liberty to promote ours.”

Junta extends Suu Kyi’s House Arrest

From Associated Press – Myanmar’s military junta extended opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention by one year Tuesday, ignoring worldwide appeals to free the Nobel laureate who has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

The move came as officials said that international aid workers had finally begun entering Myanmar’s cyclone-devastated delta area after being blocked for more than three weeks by the junta.

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said that Suu Kyi’s detention was officially extended by one year on Tuesday afternoon.

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Opposition supporters detained in Myanmar

From Associated Press – Already under fire for its handling of cyclone victims, Myanmar’s military regime Tuesday renewed the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and detained about 20 members of her opposition party.

The duration of the extension was not immediately known, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. In the past, the junta has renewed Suu Kyi’s detention for six-month or 1-year periods.

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The Return of Burma’s Monks

From Time – Rangoon travel agent Chin Chin used to take tourists to a nearby Irrawaddy delta town famous for its pottery. But the vast waterworld of rivers and rice fields that stretched beyond it was a foreign land to her until Cyclone Nargis and its horrific aftermath. On Thursday, Chin Chin and her friends bought rice and water, loaded it on a truck, and drove deep into the delta. She was shocked by what she saw: roads lined with hundreds of cold and hungry villagers, disregarded by their own government, who had walked for an hour from their broken villages to beg from passing motorists.

“They were mostly housewives,” recalls Chin Chin, who goes by the nickname. “They told me, ‘Rice is a must, so it’s worth standing in the rain for three or four hours to get some.’ They didn’t even have a change of clothes.” Fighting back her tears, Chin Chin gave out rice and listened to stories of families torn apart and villages destroyed. “It was piteous,” she says. “I really sympathized with them. We didn’t see any aid from government or foreign groups.”

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An Offer Burma Can’t Refuse

From Time – The disaster in Burma presents the world with its worst humanitarian crisis since the 2004 Asian tsunami. The ruling military junta says that more than 30,000 people are dead; the U.N. estimates the figure at perhaps 100,000. The number of Burmese at risk of starvation and disease could reach nearly 2 million. Unless the victims receive immediate help, the death toll could conceivably approach that of the entire number of civilians killed in the genocide in Darfur.

So what is the world doing about it? Not much. The military junta that runs Burma initially signaled it would accept outside relief but has imposed so many conditions on those who would actually deliver it that barely a trickle has gotten through. Hundreds of foreign aid workers have been denied visas and blocked from visiting the stricken areas. Shipments of food and medicine have been seized. After more than 10 days, the U.N. World Food Program said it had been able to deliver only a fraction of the food required for the emergency. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Julio Sosa Calo, an official for the German relief group Malteser International. “We need a huge humanitarian response. What we’re doing now is too little compared to the need.”

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Gnomes, Elves and Democracy in Burma

From The Scotsman – A United Nations human rights envoy said yesterday he could believe in “gnomes, trolls and elves” as readily as he could credit the Burmese military’s democratic reforms.

The UN said Burma denied a visa to its investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, whose report to its Human Rights Council on Thursday cited growing repression after the crushing of monk-led protests in September.

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