[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Massachusetts Burma Roundtable - Ja

Subject: Massachusetts Burma Roundtable - January


January, 1997

I.	Roundtable News
II. 	Upcoming Events
III.	Political Prisoners in Burma
IV. 	January Meeting  -  6.30pm, Tuesday,  January 14 at Franklin Research
V.	News from Burma/Political News
VI.	Poem on Visit Myanmar Year

I. 	Roundtable News

	Hopefully life is back to normal for everyone now that the holidays are
behind us.   
	At the December Roundtable meeting, we were visited by Marcia Poole and
several associates, all BBC World Service correspondents who were in Boston
attending a conference of the press.  
	From London, Marcia directs a staff of ten, who broadcast the BBC World
Service Program in Burmese into Burma from towers along the Thailand border.  
	The BBC has provided its broadcasting services to Burma for over 40 years.
Last year alone, Marcia's program received 96,000 letters of praise,
comments and stories from listeners inside Burma, making it the third most
popular BBC World Service broadcast.  
	Marcia answered questions about her journalistic responsibilities within
the BBC. She confirmed that although opposition to the SLORC is pervasive,
the SLORC maintains full military control.  Because the Burmese people are
unarmed, they have no choice but to use peaceful means of resistance.  	
	After this pleasant and informative visit, the meeting shifted to updates
on Roundtable outreach and the selective purchasing campaign in Cambridge.
We also talked about bringing Tibetan, Nigerian, Burmese and East Timor
activists together.  A coalition meeting is planned to take place within the
next few months.  We ended the meeting and entered into a hectic holiday season
- Jonah Crawford                .


On Sunday, January 26, 1997, a presentation will be held at 11:00 a.m. at
the First Parish Church at 328 Walnut Street, Brookline, MA 02146.  The
presentation will include Burmese culture, Buddhism and dance.  For
information, please contact Kolay at (617) 388-0038.  

Conference on Burma.  From February 1-4, 1997, over two hundred students,
labor organizers, community activists, concerned scholars and NGO
representatives will gather at American University in Washington, DC to
continue the struggle for democracy in Burma.  Over the past few years, a
grassroots international movement has grown in support of Burma.  Their use
of the internet for communications has brought the Free Burma Coalition a
nomination for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Now, those working
around the world will convene face to face for the first time.  They will
come from various countries including Canada, Thailand, South Africa, India,
Ireland and the United States.  The Executive Director of Human Rights
Watch, U.S. lawmakers such as Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)
(invited), Nigerian Nobel Prize Recipient Wole Soyenka (invited) and other
leading dissidents will attend.  The meeting seeks to draw further attention
to systemic human rights abuses and conference's activities will include
congressional lobbying, letter writing and a public demonstration.  For more
information, please contact Jeremy Woodrum, Registration Coordinator at the
Kay Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20016, (202) 885-3333,

III.	Political Prisoners in Burma

	On DECEMBER 11, 1996, the Reebok Human Rights Awards was held in Boston.
Ma Thida, one of Amnesty International's Prisoner of Conscience was one of 4
individuals presented with Reebok's annual award.  Ma Thida is a doctor and
short-story writer, aged 28 who was arrested with nine others on August 7,
1993 while campaigning for democratic reforms.  When crowds of supporters
gathered outside the courtroom for the trial, Burmese authorities removed Ma
Thida and closed her trial to the public.  She was sentenced to 20 years in
Burma's infamous prison, Insein for "endangering public tranquility, having
contact with illegal organizations and distributing unlawful literature." A
Candlelight vigil was also held on December 10th and attended by a few
hundred people from throughout the Boston area.  Ma Thida is only one of
hundreds of people, many students, who currently remain imprisoned by the
military junta.  

	Min Ko Naing is one such student who was arrested in March of 1989.  He
became a legendary student leader in the 1988 uprising.  Chairman of the
Burmese Student Union, he led demonstrations up until the military coup.
The international community has been very interested in the welfare of
leaders of the NLD and shown less concern for many of the students who
remain in jail.  Min Ko Naing and others refused to flee the country,
preferring to stay and fight against the junta in a non-violent struggle.  

	In Insein prison, prisoners are often kept in solitary confinement with
little access to visitors and medical treatment.  Ma Thida's health
continues to deteriorate as she is currently suffering from ovarian tumors.
Ma Thida, Min Ko Naing and many others have shifted their struggle from one
of politics to basic survival. 

- Tin Maung Lay and Charlotte O'Sullivan

IV. 	January Meeting

Next Roundtable meeting: 6:30 p.m.  on Tuesday, January 14th at Franklin,
Research & Development, 711 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02210 at (617)

V.	News from Burma/Political News/Action Alert

Political Update

In response to the escalating repression in Burma, the Clinton
Administration is seriously considering further sanctions on Burma. Already,
Senators D'Amato, Helms, Leahy, McConnell and Moynihan have written the
President to call for a triggering of the ban on new US investment outlined
in the Cohen/Feinstein amendment.  

On behalf of CPPAX and the Massachusetts Burma Roundtable, Simon Billenness,
Julia Carpenter and U Win Maung met with staff at the Boston offices of
Senator  Edward Kennedy and Senator John Kerry. In addition, during a recent
trip to  Washington DC, Simon Billenness met with the Washington DC staff of
both Senators as well as a staff member to Rep. Joe Kennedy.  In our
meetings, we expressed our thanks to both Senators for supporting the  tough
sanctions on Burma proposed by Senators McConnell and Moynihan. We asked
specifically that the Senators:  

1. Communicate their constituents' concerns over the treatment of refugees
from Burma to the ambassadors of Bangladesh, India and Thailand; 

2. Write President Clinton to call for the immediate imposition of a ban on
new US investment in Burma. 

We will stay in close contact with the staff of both Senators to ensure that
they follow up on our requests.
- Simon Billenness

News From Burma

	We are all anxious to see how the situation in Burma will unfold in the new
year.  December saw a growth in acts of courage by the Burmese people, while
SLORC tightened its grip on the country. SLORC showed no sign of relaxing
restrictions on Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi who must seek advanced
military permission to leave her home in Rangoon.  She recently stated that
she has no plans to leave as she did not want to ask for what she regards as
her legal right to freedom of movement.  SLORC began restricting her after
nearly 2000 students began demonstrating in December - the biggest
anti-government demonstrations since 1988.  The students had began
protesting for the right to establish a union and for the release of
students previously arrested.  Beginning on December 3, 1996, students held
peaceful demonstrations against the injustices and oppression committed by
SLORC.  In a public appeal, they asked, "Are you going to collaborate with
SLORC, who is ruthlessly killing our people?...Are you going to join our
student union in demanding justice and freedom and work for the creation of
the government already elected by you, the people?..."  The junta accused
the National League of Democracy (NLD) and Aung San Suu Kyi of instigating
the protests. 

	Also, two bombs exploded at a Buddhist site in northern Rangoon on
Christmas day, killing five people and wounding seventeen.  The military
government blamed the blasts on the exiled All Burma Students Democratic
Front (ABSDF) and the Karen National Union (KNU), who have both taken
offense at SLORC's accusations.   Aung Naing Oo of the ABSDF stated that
"The pro-democracy movement is gaining momentum and any political
organization with common sense would not do such a thing as that kind of
terrorism will just rebound on them.  As an organization struggling to
achieve peace, human rights and democracy, we deplore the loss of innocent
civilian lives."  The KNU, who does not understand why the government is
blaming them as they are currently in peace-talks with SLORC, is seeking an
explanation of the accusation.   Both the ABSDF and the KNU said the junta
most likely planted the bombs as an excuse to crackdown against the renewed
anti-government activity.
- Charlotte O'Sullivan 

 Action Alert

Free Burma activists are being taken increasingly seriously because we make
our voice heard through visits, letters and phone calls.  We need to
reinforce our recent meetings with phone calls and letters. Please contact
Senators Kennedy and Kerry:

* Thank the Senators for their past support of tough economic sanctions on Burma
* Request that the Senators write President Clinton in support of a ban on
new  investment in Burma
* Communicate your concern about the treatment of refugees from Burma.
*Ask the Senators to raise these concerns with the ambassadors of
Bangladesh, India and Thailand

Senator Edward Kennedy
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4543
(202) 228-3433 fax

Senator John Kerry
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2742
(202) 224-8525 fax

Call Congress toll-free using (800) 972-3524 

VI.	Poem on Visit Myanmar Year

(for "Visit Myanmar Year")

Don't come yet, my dear. 
There are clouds of mosquitoes 
everywhere here in Rangoon. 

Think twice, my dear. 
Buses are so crowded
all the time here in Rangoon. 

Be cautious, my dear. 
Otherwise "water"* will flow
everytime you jaywalk here in Rangoon. 

Don't order yet, my dear. 
That simple dish of greens 
is over 30 bucks. 
- Maung Ko Yu                                            

*"Water" is a modern Burmese expression for money. "Pouring water" means
bribing authorities to facilitate any transaction. 


*Contributors: Tin Maung Lay, Jonah Crawford and Simon Billenness; 

Newsletter edited by Charlotte O'Sullivan, (617) 789-4352,
imchaos@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, 21 Hooker St., Allston, MA 02134.  

For circulation, please call Simon Billenness at (617) 423-6655 x225, c/o
Franklin Research & Development, 711 Atlantic Ave. Boston, MA 02111,