IMC UK | 02.10.2007 17:32 | World
The military in Burma (Myanmar) has been unleashing its troops on unarmed demonstrators in a bid to stamp out mounting protests against the junta’s stifling rule, and price rises that have made life for broad layers of working people unbearable. The country's military junta continues to escalate its attacks against the area's ethnic minorities. The All Burma Monks Alliance, supported by the National League for Democracy and the Burmese people in general, have vowed to continue protests.
There are ongoing daily protests outside the Burmese and Chinese embassies in London, where 200 or so protesters rallied on September 27th. Meanwhile a Total petrol station, the largest supporter of the Burmese military regime, was blockaded in Bradford for over an hour. Students there also mandated their Students Union to investigate alternative suppliers after learning the union has an account with Total. The oil company's HQ has also been targeted with a die-in on October 2nd and another Total petrol station, this time in Oxford, was targeted on Saturday.
There have also been calls to petition the UK government to boycott the Chinese Olympics due to China's support of the military regime in Burma, a call to wear red shirts in solidarity.
On September 30th, an emergency national demonstration took place with around a thousand people gathering in Trafalgar Square before marching down Whitehall and on to the Buddhist pagoda in Battersea Park. In Sheffield the Karen community protested on Monday 1st October.
Ongoing protests in solidarity are expected to continue, both in the UK and around the world. Burma's generals appeared to have cut public internet access today to prevent more videos, photographs and information about their violent crackdown getting out.
The march over Chelsea Bridge
The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (http://www.ncgub.net/) is headed by Sein Win (PND) and includes representatives of many opposition parties of Burma (NLD, PND, CNLD, DOKNU, ALD), along with independents and representatives of the Karenni, Shan, Chin and Arakan peoples against whom the Junta is waging genocidal war with the assistance of the drug lords operating in their lands. The opposition parties cling to fragile legality under the Junta whilst the radical resistance groups are able to take more risks; the monks are the least touchable of all Burmese citizens as harming a monk is an unforgiveable crime for many Burmese. There is no desire to establish a Buddhist theocracy and the people of Burma are united in their determination to achieve a democracy with equal rights and freedom for all.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the head of the NLD opposition party and has been under house arrest more or less continuously since the landslide victory for the democratic opposition in the election which followed the 1988 uprising, during which between 3,000 and 10,000 people were massacred. Her detention is renewed annually by the Junta. The 2006 renewal was met with much speculation and rumour as there were strong signs that she would be released and all of Burma expected it. It later emerged that she had been offered a gagging deal, which she refused. Previously she has refused Junta offers to allow her to leave Burma to visit her husband on his deathbed and see the grandchildren she has never met, knowing that the result would be exile.
Her father who led the struggle for democracy after the end of British rule, earning a status similar to that of the Dalai Lama in Tibet; Bogyoke Aung San was assassinated by armed paramilitaries on July 19th 1947 when Suu Kyi was two years old. The Junta fear her influence and determination to see Burma freed; Than Shwe, the current number one in the Junta, imprisoned the Burmese Prime Minister (and member of the Junta) Khin Nyunt and his family in 2004 for supporting formal involvement of Daw ("Ma") Suu in Burmese politics.
One of the greatest fears for a Free Burma has always been descent into civil war, with the Junta's decades of genocidal violence against the ethnic minority groups who are, of course, now heavily armed in their own defence against the Burmese army and their proxy paramilitary forces which control the heroin trade. The fact that attempts by the Junta to provoke fighting between the Burmese protesters and the ethnic groups have failed is hopeful; the news that the Karenni, Shan and the other ethnic minority peoples of Burma, have united behind the Burmese protests in the cities is immense. Statements released via the Free Burma Rangers may be found here: http://www.freeburmarangers.org/Reports/The news up to the blackout and key communications from inside before and after is summarised below. Sources are many; information has been gleaned from the Burmese resistance channels, including various blogs, Irrawaddy, Mizzima, DVB, and a wide variety of other news sources worldwide; information from the resistance is contrasted to relevant mainstream media reports where useful.
Burmese resistance channels: http://bbwob.blogspot.com/ http://burmamyanmargenocide.blogspot.com/ http://ko-htike.blogspot.com/
- unrest is a permanent condition in Burma, trumped only by fear. The situation has been threatening to boil over since 12th January 2007 when China and Russia used their vetoes in the UNSC to prevent UN intervention on behalf of the enslaved people of Burma. The uprising was triggered by massive increases in fuel prices, making food impossibly expensive for people who are, in the vast majority, living close to or below the absolute poverty level ($2/day). It is widely believed in Burma that this crisis was caused by IMF advice to the Junta on "economic reform". The Burmese government is ranked the worst in the world on objective indicators: http://www.burmanet.org/news/2007/09/14/irrawaddy-burma-ranks-zero-in-worldwide-governance-indicators-violet-cho/
- as has been well reported by the mainstream media, the protests have been simmering since early September 2007 and have been led by the monks; it is harder for the Junta to use violence against the monks given the respect they command amongst the people. They were rapidly joined by crowds of people, linking arms along the route or standing in their doorways to pray. The monks vowed not to stop marching until the Junta were gone.
- monks rounded up, beaten, killed or kept under guard in their pagodas; reports of massacres and mass arrests at more radical monasteries; monks reported to be collecting weapons for use in self-defence against the troops.
- furious and growing crowds on the streets.
- ASEAN has expressed "revulsion" at the violent Junta response in an unusually strong statement; analysts also say that statements from the PRC have been "strong for China". Daily protests continue in ASEAN countries to keep the pressure up for decisive action. The Burmese resistance calls for people worldwide to keep the pressure up, particularly on the ASEAN nations, and especially China.
- "several" commanders have refused to order their troops to shoot protesters; some have been beating soldiers who refused to shoot; Junta have flown down troops from the north previously engaged in genocide against the ethnic Karen People; very nasty troops indeed.
- The Karenni have said they stand for freedom with the protesters in the cities, as have the Shan and the powerful Shan State Army-South; messages of love and solidarity have been issued by many other ethnic groups; most were expected to remain neutral or even turn on the Burmese protesters. Paid thugs have been dressing as monks and ransacking ethnic holy places but noone has been taken in.
- at least 3 regiments have mutinied and are fighting government troops and/or protecting protesters. 10,000 troops have been reported marching south and seem likely to be intending to join the protesters as the Junta have been flying their reinforcement troops in.
- The Burmese people know that this time, unlike 1988, the world is watching. Until midday local time they had good internet access and know that the UN envoy is about to arrive. They still have shortwave radios getting broadcasts from the resistance radio in Norway; even the army listen to this. The people are optimistic and determined; they cannot believe that the world will let them down if they can only hold their position vis-a-vis the Junta. Others are joining them all the time, in anger at the murder of peaceful protesters.
- The UK Ambassador reported earlier that he thought Aung San Suu Kyi was still safe and under house arrest as there were still troops in the street outside; there are reports that Than Shwe has been deposed and the media report that troops loyal to his successor, Maung Aye, were now guarding Daw Suu Kyi's house. The Junta is at war with itself; they each command the loyalty of different troops. Than Shwe's family is known to have already been flown to safety; resistance channels are reporting on their known whereabouts.
- Maung Aye is said to have started talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, who has the trust of the other opposition parties and support from the more radical resistance groups. Many Burmese do not believe that the reports of talks are true; the Junta routinely use infiltrators and rumour to disrupt and control protest. The Junta earlier stated that DASSK had been removed to the dreaded Insein prison, but this was certainly false given subsequent reports.Post-blackout news via Burmese Resistance channels
- little news getting out via mainstream media since the news blackout; reports of sporadic internet access and some telephone landlines being usable; mobiles are rare at a cost of $1800. It is critical that this information is spread far and wide, regardless of caution from conventional news channels. The massacres of 1988 were not known about for months, far too late for the Burmese People; we must not let them down again. The resistance are asking people to contact their national embassies in Rangoon (Yangon) asking them to provide open access WiFi communications for news, photos and video to get out.
- the radical resistance, based around the 88-generation and student activists overseas, have issued an ultimatum to China, alongside bitter criticism of the non-interventionist policy of ASEAN and the abuse of the UNSC veto by China and Russia to prevent action by the UN. If the PRC fail to act, they are asking for a global boycott of: Beijing Olympics 2008; Total, Unocal, Petrona, Finas, Elf, Daewoo and all products "made in China" or "made in Russia". The full text of the communique may be found here: http://burmamyanmargenocide.blogspot.com/2007/09/ultimatum-to-china-due-oct-2-900am.html. The same blog also carries an announcement of a general strike from Monday (1st October 2007); a call to government workers to join the strike reminds them that they are paid with money stolen from the People and of the distinction between state and government.
- unconfirmed report that Than Shwe has shot the leader of a coup and previous 2nd in command, Maung Aye. Mainstream media reporting serious internal disagreements within the Junta but no mention of a shooting.
- UN envoy Gambari and officials are reported to have met with Aung San Suu Kyi for 20 minutes, according to internal resistance sources (in contrast to the 1 hour 15 minutes reported in the mainstream media). Than Shwe and other top Junta members are reported by the mainstream media to be refusing to meet with the UN delegation; the envoy is said to have cancelled plans to leave until the meeting takes place. Gambari is widely regarded as ineffective both inside and outside Burma (as noted by both resistance and mainstream media).
- there are reports of massacres of protesters but no estimates of the extent of the brutality. A transcript of a very emotional report phoned through to the outside (http://burmamyanmargenocide.blogspot.com/2007/09/unknown-dead-bodies-burned-at-yaeway.html) suggests that injured protesters are being cremated alive along with the bodies at Yae Way crematorium with a number of witnesses amongst the staff present. The caller makes a desperate plea to ensure that this news is reported by the global mainstream media, mentioning BBC and CNN in particular.
- many reports of monks being murdered, with some senior positions being filled by Junta placemen (many senior abbots have long been bought off with bribes and luxury goods to keep the monasteries under control).
- mass detentions of monks, with 4 main detention centres identified by a resident to the external resistance: Kyaikasan Horse Racing Ground; Yay-Kyi-Eine former Military Intelligence headquarters; GTI (Governmental Technical Institute), Insein; GTC (Government Technical College).
"People from all different walks of life in Burma have to join in with this fight. Everyone, including government employees and soldiers. Because it's only a handful of [military] uniformed people who are destroying our country while the rest of the soldiers [of the lower ranks] are being mistreated in the same way as civilians and ethnic minorities.” --Padoh Mahn Shah, Secretary of the Karen National Union (1st October, 2007)
FRIDAY 5 OCTOBER
8:30 - 10:30 am
33 Cavendish Square, London, WC1
Show your solidarity with the protestors in Burma - join the action!
A mass action has been called to take place at the headquarters of TOTAL
OIL in London on Friday October 5th from 8:30 - 10:30 am. A demonstration
and a mass die-in will take place outside of the central London office to
express our outrage at Total's involvement with the military junta in
All are welcome to attend - bring placards, instruments, noise and props
if you can. A symbolic 'die-in' will be happening. A similar action
happened on Tuesday, October 2nd at the same location with 20 activists
Across France and in other parts of the UK pressure has been mounting
against Total in a number of solidarity actions.
It is important to continue pressure on this company to demand Total's
withdrawal from Burma.
TOTAL Oil's business partnership with the Burmese government is providing
vital funding that enables the brutal military dictatorship in to oppress
48 million people.
An uprising against the junta in Burma, led by monks, has been met wtih
violent repression. Security forces and armed military troops have
launched a violent crackdown on demonstrators, most of which is not being
reported due to a state-imposed media freeze. Some estimates suggest that
thousands could be dead and many more imprisoned.
We demand that the company immediately halts its operations in Burma and
announces a full divestment from the country until human rights abuses end
and a democratic regime is in place.
This action is called by people who met at a Burma solidarity march and
decided that we needed to do more by targetting the companies that have
blood on their hands.
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus
For more information see:
Further information on actions against Total Oil:
TOTAL Oil has had a joint business venture with the Burmese government
since 1992. Its major project is the Yadana gas project in southern Burma,
which earns the military regime hundreds of millions of dollars every
Four Dutch political parties, including the Dutch Labour Party, part of the
governing coalition, last week called for a boycott of Total:
The French CGT union called for Total to halt all gas extraction and
freeze all transfers:
Meanwhile, there have been demonstrations and calls to boycott in
and Nottingham in the UK in the last week:
Anglicans call for boycott: