Starting at Parliament Square
Opposite Downing Street
Outside Downing Street
Outside Burma Embassy
In the park by the US Embassy
Tower Bridge on More London private property
We spent nearly 30 minutes opposite 10 Downing Street. The police kindly allowed us to take a very quick photograph outside the gates to 10 Downing Street. Then we posed for a photo besides the Horse Guards. At Trafalgar Square there were Morris Dancers and we encountered our first opposition from the security staff at the base of the column, who did not want us to hand out any leaflets or protest there as we had no council permission and moved us up onto the steps.
We briefly assembled outside the Burma Embassy, a policeman said they'd been expecting us after our the passionate May 9th protest there, but we explained today's protest was mobile and he did not take up our offer to join us on our march but wished us well. Despite the desperate appeals of first aid experts to get visas for Cyclone relief, the Burma Embassy was closed for a 3 day holiday anyway. The Embassy was a bit worse for wear following the May 9th protest see http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/05/398599.html
At the US Embassy, we joined some Burmese already on a 3 day vigil there, appealing for US and UK help in the cyclone disaster and not to be allow the junta to frustrate international efforts to aid the cyclone victims.
Then we took a bus back to Westminster Bridge and walked from the Millennium Wheel to Tower Bridge. With the good weather there were a lot of people and we managed to give out all our leaflets before we arrived at the Lord Mayor's offices on property owned by More London. More London gave us our 2nd opposition of the day, explaining that the gray bricked area was private property and we were not allowed to leaflet or protest there without permission - we'd run out of leaflets anyway. Apparently photographers with tripods will also be classed as "professional photographers" and won't be allowed to take photos with a tripod there. We were still able to walk through the area and even rest on the grassed area wearing our sign-boards.
The Burmese were giving out an article explaining Burma's plight and the referendum. We also gave out a leaflet directing people to http://burmacampaign.org.uk/cyclonenargis.php where Burma Campaign lists links to major charities helping with Burma cyclone relief.
Avaaz.org have a donation page for the Cyclone here. Avaaz is raising funds for the International Burmese Monks Organization and related groups, which will transmit funds directly to monasteries in affected areas.
 Quote from May 6th 2008 The Times Editorial Comment Page 16:
'It was bad enough that the military intended to ensure a "yes" vote through a combination of bribery, intimidation and straightforward rigging that makes Robert Mugabe appear an amateur. The notion that it is still seriously considering continuing with its scheme despite the manifest impracticality of doing so in these circumstances is utterly obscene. The world must do its best to help the Burmese people through this immediate natural disaster. It can only be hoped that in time they will be liberated from the man-made disaster that is their military Government as well'
Protest in London Next Week
NOTE: Burma Campaign's May 16th European Day of Action to get French Total Oil Out of Burma has been cancelled in favour of the May 17th Global Day of Action for Cyclone Nargis victims.
Friday 16th May - Demonstration outside the Burmese Embassy calling for Aid to be allowed in.
Address: 19A, Charles Street, London, W1J 5DX
Nearest tube: Green Park
Saturday 17th May
Global Day of Action for Cyclone Nargis victims.
Two weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, on Saturday 17th May, protestors across the world will hold rallies and candle lit vigils to urge France, Britain and the United States to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis.
The survivors of the Cyclone Nargis are living in terrible conditions; without clean water, food or healthcare, they are living surrounded by flood waters contaminated by rotting corpses, animals and raw sewage. Over 1.5 million people are now at risk. We know that diseases, such as cholera, dysentery and malaria, are spreading. If the world does not intervene soon, the death toll could rise by thousands every day.
Find out details of the protests below:
Protests will be held outside the French Embassy, the American Embassy and the Foreign office. Details are below and on this map. http://preview.tinyurl.com/4kfpw8
French Embassy: Time: 12:30 - 13:00, Address: 58 Knightsbridge London SW1X 7JT
American Embassy: Time: 13:30 - 14:00 Address: 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 2LQ
Foreign Office: 14:40 - 1510 Address: King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH
Transport: You can walk between the French and American Embassy. From the American Embassy to the Foreign office it is a short walk to Bond Street Underground Station, where you can get the Jubilee line to Westminster. From Westminster it is a 3 minute walk to the Foreign Office.
Protests are being planned from Australia to Chile! For details of protests in other countries click here.
Recent News from Burma Campaign UK
The death toll from Cyclone Nargis continues to rise and over 1.5 million
people are now at risk. We know that diseases, such as cholera, dysentery
and malaria, are spreading. If the world does not intervene soon, the death
toll could rise by thousands every day.
No country could cope with a disaster of this scale alone, yet Burma¹s
Generals are shunning the world¹s offers of help; they¹d rather see their
citizens die than accept help from overseas.
If any country can make the generals change their mind, it is China. We have
witnessed the recent terrible loss of life in China following the
devastating earthquake. However, the response to the two natural disasters
could not be more different. While the Chinese government responded quickly,
dispatching 50,000 troops, and Premier Wen Jiabao immediately flying to the
disaster area, the Burmese regime continues to block aid efforts.
China has a very close relationship with Burma¹s generals, supplying them
with weapons, economic assistance and protecting them at the UN Security
Council. This weekend China blocked moves at the UN for a Security Council
resolution telling the generals to let aid in. Every hour China protects
Burma, more people will die.
Please help us break the deadlock. Please email China and demand that they
stop blocking UN action. Your email will be sent to the Chinese
representatives at the UN and in the UK.
Please send an email now here:
[The email includes condolences for the recent terrible loss of life in China following the devastating earthquake]
Burma Campaign UK Welcomes Royal Navy Aid Ship For Cyclone Victims
12 May 2008
The Burma Campaign UK today welcomed an announcement by Prime Minister Gordon Brown that HMS Westminster is on its way to Burma with humanitarian supplies. It is more than a week since the cyclone struck and the regime ruling Burma is still blocking aid to the country.
“Everyone we speak to in Burma is desperate for help,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “We have been calling for the Royal Navy to be sent to help. People in Burma will be very pleased that HMS Westminster is on the way.”
Oxfam has warned that 1.5 million people are at risk unless aid reaches them soon. Burma’s rainy season starts within two weeks, which will make overland access to many of the worst affected parts almost impossible. Boats and helicopters will be the only way to get aid in.
Public Must Not Be Put Off Donating For Cyclone Victims
11 May 2008
Failure to donate would be a triple-whammy for innocent victims
The Burma Campaign UK today called on the British public not to be put off donating for Burma’s cyclone victims by stories of Burma’s generals seizing UN aid.
“If you give to British charities or the DEC appeal your money is safe and will reach people in need,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “Don’t punish ordinary people for what the generals are doing. If you don’t donate it will be a triple-whammy for cyclone victims. First they suffer from the dictatorship, second the cyclone, and then no aid.”
The aid that has been seen with generals’ names on the side, and is being used as propaganda by the generals, is aid that has been given to the government by Asian countries. British aid agencies do not give money or equipment to the government, instead they deliver aid directly to the people.
People wishing to give money can also donate to a network of grassroots Burmese organisations via the Mae Tao clinic in Thailand. Donations can be made online at: http://www.maetaoclinic.org/cyclone.html
“When you think about donating don’t think of the generals, think of the children,” said Mark Farmaner. “The generals don’t care if they live or die, but if you care, please donate.”
Recent Burma News (see full news stories and recent news on "Burma News" http://myamarnews.blogspot.com/ )
UN calls for Burma aid corridor - 13th May 2008
The United Nations has called for an air or sea corridor to be opened to channel large amounts of aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma.
The UN's humanitarian agency said there was a risk of a "second catastrophe" unless a massive operation began.
The UN said it had only been able to reach 270,000 of the 1.5m survivors.
... Earlier, the military government in Burma said it remained opposed to granting visas to foreign aid workers to help co-ordinate the relief operation.
Vice-Admiral Soe Thein said it was grateful for the aid shipment from the United States that arrived on Monday but insisted that "skilful humanitarian workers are not necessary".
Bogalay healthcare provision in crisis
May 13, 2008 (DVB)–A human rights activist in Bogalay said disease and poor sanitation in the township in the aftermath of the recent cyclone have placed a heavy burden on healthcare provision.
The Bogalay activist said NGOs were helping refugees in the township, but they remained in difficulty.
“Children are starting to have dysentery in the monasteries due to the lack of toilets,” she said.
“Some people have been sent to other places and new people have been taken in. They took pictures and videotaped the tents with the refugees and took them away.”
The activist said aid supplies, including food, drinks and medicines, were being held in storage in mother and child care offices, mosques, primary schools and Hindu and Chinese temples.
She said the government has given no effective help and so support groups have had to rely on help from NGOs and other donors who do not want to channel aid through the government to provide pure water and medicines.
Government officials appropriate international aid
May 13, 2008 (DVB)–Government officials and supporters have been taking relief supplies from international donors and selling them on for personal gain, according to sources in Rangoon.
A Rangoon resident said military trucks had come to Nyaungpinlay market in the city to sell instant noodle packets, but no one had bought them.
“In Bogalay, you can buy raincoats donated by the UN, as many as you like for 8000 [kyat]. Rolls of tarpaulin can be bought in Bogalay’s Chinatown for 100,000 a roll. Merchants bought all 100 rolls straight away,” he said.
“A shopkeeper who sold food to refugees in Bogalay on 4 May asked soldiers from Battalion 66 to help her keep order, but the soldiers took away all her merchandise and did not return it,” he went on.
“Soldiers also took away all the goods from a boat that docked in Bogalay harbour after the storm and then sold them in the market four or five days later.”
Members of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Association reportedly confiscated bottles of purified water donated by companies in Ma-Upin.
All the high-energy biscuits donated by the international community were taken by Rangoon Military Command and replaced with poor quality Industry Ministry-1 biscuits with labels that said “donated by the international community” and given to refugees, according to an official of the ministry.
The same official said that good-quality blankets and mosquito nets had been given to civil servants.
Relief supplies appropriated by officials in Bogalay
May 13, 2008 (DVB)–Cyclone victims in Bogalay have been unable to access aid supplies sent in to the area as they have been taken by government supporters and are being sold to those in need.
A resident of Bogalay said the areas below the town had been hit particularly badly.
“Although there was not a high death toll in Bogalay, some villages in the areas below Bogalay were wiped out and we saw none of the people again,” he said.
“Out of 30 relatives, only one or two survived. They are in refugee camps.”
The resident said that no support had come from the government, and locals were forced to rely on charity from small NGOs and local donors, including rice donated to monasteries.
Government officials have provided some materials, but only exchange for payment to be collected at a later date, the resident said.
“Senior officials are in town now and they are selling tin sheets on the streets,” he said.
“They are selling them by means of a debt system. They don’t have to pay yet. They are also collecting 360 [kyat per household] in labour costs,” he said.
“The sheets are not reaching the refugees. They are dropping tin sheets outside houses that have no roofs, and the money will be collected later.”
The resident said foreign aid supplies had been appropriated by government supporters who were selling them in Bogalay.
“I want to state clearly that the aid given by foreign countries has not reached the public and refugees,” the resident said.
“Plastic sheets and medicines have not reached the victims either, they are being sold outside,” he said.
“The sheets are being sold by soldiers and members of Swann Arr Shin and the Union Solidarity and Development Association.”
Diseases are prevalent among the survivors, and are being exacerbated by the unsanitary living conditions, the resident said.
“Cholera and dysentery are occurring; 14 people have died, 7 instantly,” he said.
“There are about 800-1000 people taking refuge in each monastery. There is one doctor for them from the Health Department but some monasteries have none, and there are no other health measures,” he went on.
“There is no toilet. And as there is no roof in monasteries, they are living under the rain now.”
Labutta survivors still neglected by authorities
May 13, 2008 (DVB)—The situation in Labutta remains desperate, with relief efforts proceeding slowly and confined to the major waterways and local officials more focused on personal gain than on helping victims, locals said.
Junta Leader Won’t Answer My Calls: Ban Ki-moon Tuesday, May 13, 2008
UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon said on Monday all his efforts to speak to Burma’s junta leader, Sen-Gen Than Shwe, on the telephone have failed.
Survivors moving north as humanitarian crisis looms; children at risk
Tens of thousands of cyclone survivors are on the move in the Irrawaddy Delta, posing a challenge for international relief workers trying to reach them with aid.
Meanwhile, children are at risk of being kidnapping and trafficked in the aftermath of the cyclone, which the UN has warned is on the verge of a major humanitarian crisis.
Eye-witnesses said villagers from the lower Irrawaddy Delta area are moving north to safety, and many are even trekking towards the former capital Rangoon.
"They are understandably trying to escape the devastation," Richard Horsey, a spokesperson for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Mizzima. "This is of course makes assessing the needs of the displaced people more difficult and targeting relief even harder."
Richard Bridal, regional Unicef head, warned that children were especially vulnerable.
"Of course many of the survivors are children and they are in danger of being kidnapped and trafficked," Bridal said. "These children are also in danger of suffering from acute malnutrition; they need to be identified and treated – if they are not, they will certainly die."
Burma Campaign UK on Facebook
Make sure you've signed:
- Email China to ask them to stop blocking UN action on Burma Cyclone Action (Email campaign launched 13th May 2008).
- Urge immediate medical care for Min Ko Naing (Email campaign launched 29th April 2008)
- "Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!" petition (global campaign launched 13 March 2008)
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- This is Burma Music - U2, REM, Damien Rice, KT Tunstall...
- This is Burma: News and Documentaries - including Burma's Secret War
and Inside The Crackdown
30 Days (in May 2008) for a million voices: Burma Can't Wait
Millions Rallied to Free Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Now it's Burma's Turn
Hollywood Stars Team up with the Human Rights Action Center to Launch Campaign on Behalf of the People of Burma
Will Ferrell, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Page, Judd Apatow, Mana, Sylvester Stallone, Eric Szmanda, Sarah Silverman Part of 30-Day Call-to-Action to Free Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.
One should immediately pause and recall the outcome of similar “humanitarian” exercises. In 1999, the plight of Kosovan refugees was exploited by the US and its allies to wage war against Serbia and transform the province into a NATO protectorate largely “cleansed” of its Serbian minority. In the same year, Australia, with the backing of the US, used the violence of Indonesian-backed militias to justify a military intervention into East Timor to install a regime sympathetic to Canberra’s economic and strategic interests. After nearly a decade the local populations in both countries continue to live in appalling conditions, with none of their fundamental needs having been met.
Undoubtedly a huge social tragedy has taken place over the past week. Official Burmese figures put the number of dead and missing at more than 60,000. UN officials estimate the death toll at 100,000 and the number of people severely affected by the cyclone at nearly 2 million. Much of the huge Irrawaddy delta has been devastated by the storm surges whipped up by Cyclone Nargis, which swamped the low-lying land. Entire towns and villages have been washed away, leaving scenes that recall the destruction produced by the December 2004 tsunami along the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.
It is also true that the Burmese junta is a brutal regime that has repeatedly gunned down anti-government protesters in order to maintain its own power and privileges. Its rescue efforts are certainly hampered not only by the economic backwardness of the country, but also by the regime’s callous indifference to the plight of the Burmese people. Given the current media campaign, one should approach all press reports with considerable caution. But there is little doubt that many cyclone victims are being left to fend for themselves—as indeed were the survivors of the 2004 tsunami by governments of the worst hit countries.
No one, however, should place any credibility in the protestations of concern from the Bush administration and its allies. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted on Wednesday that Washington’s cyclone assistance was “not a matter of politics” but rather “a matter of a humanitarian crisis”. “What remains is for the Burmese government to allow the international community to help its people,” Rice declared.
In reality, all American assistance comes with political strings attached. The Bush administration has offered a paltry $3.5 million in financial aid and is pushing for the entry of US officials, aid workers and military personnel to handle emergency relief operations rather than allow Burmese authorities to carry them out. At the same time, the US and its European allies continue to maintain sanctions against the Burmese regime that have compounded the country’s economic difficulties. In the week prior to the cyclone, the Bush administration strengthened its bans on trade and investment and the freezing of assets, all of which remain in place except for a slight easing of restrictions on financial aid.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested on Wednesday that the UN Security Council be convened to invoke its “responsibility to protect” to override Burmese national sovereignty and deliver international aid, with or without the junta’s approval. The “responsibility to protect” resolution, which has a history dating back to the 1999 NATO war on Yugoslavia, was passed in 2006 as an instrument for the major powers to justify military aggression on the grounds of preventing “genocide, war, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. Kouchner’s suggestion would extent the scope for such interventions to natural disasters such as Cyclone Nargis.
Kouchner’s comments have yet to be publicly supported by Washington, but the suggestion is clearly being discussed within the administration. The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, declared that most governments were “outraged” by the slowness of the Burmese regime to accept international aid. Alluding to the UN Security Council powers, he added: “A government has responsibility to protect its own people, to provide for its people.... It should be a no-brainer to accept the offer made by the international community.”
Director of the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Ky Luu, was more explicit. He indicated that unilateral air drops by US military aircraft was one of the options being considered if the junta continued to refuse to accept American aid. Four US warships are already heading towards Burma and Navy helicopters and Air Force cargo planes have been stationed in neighbouring Thailand. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates commented that he could not imagine a military intervention without Burmese permission. Defence Department spokesman Bryan Whitman noted: “If you’re not asked and it’s not requested, it’s considered an invasion.” Nevertheless, it is clear that the military option and its political ramifications are being actively discussed.
The Asian tsunami
As part of the campaign to pressure the Burmese junta, a new mythology is being created to paint the international response to the Asian tsunami as a model of rapid, efficient and compassionate aid delivery by all involved. Contrasts are increasingly being made between the Burmese regime today and its “democratic” counterparts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand in 2004.
Any objective examination of the 2004 tragedy, however, reveals a very different picture. The huge tsunami waves engulfed impoverished villages around the Bay of Bengal on December 26. For days, as the death toll quickly mounted into the tens of thousands, US President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other world leaders failed to make any statement on the disaster. When they finally broke their vacations, their collective contempt for the fate of the victims was revealed in their perfunctory comments and pathetic offers of aid. It was only after an outpouring of sympathy and donations from working people around the world, aghast at the enormity of the disaster, that the US and major powers began to act.
In the worst affected countries, emergency relief efforts were hamstrung by red tape and political agendas, of both the local regimes and the donor countries. The Indonesian and Sri Lankan governments had been waging brutal long-running wars against separatist movements and were extremely reluctant to allow aid organisations, let alone foreign militaries, into the disaster zones. Far from helping the victims, the Indonesian military seized the opportunity to intensify its operations against Achnese rebels. In Sri Lanka, attempts to establish a joint aid body with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) under the auspices of the 2002 ceasefire collapsed, amid bitter communal recriminations over any official recognition of the separatists.
The Indian government insisted that it would control its own relief operations and dismissed any suggestion that foreign militaries should be involved. The Indian military was particularly sensitive to the presence of international aid workers in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were among the worst hit areas, because of the presence of strategic navy and air force bases there. More than three years later, thousands of tsunami victims on the islands, as well as in other parts of India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are still living in squalid conditions in temporary accommodation.
No one in ruling circles in the US or Europe suggested at the time that a military operation should be mounted to override Indian sovereignty or to make unilateral air drops over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In the case of Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the governments eventually permitted the US military to assist in aid operations on their territories. In both cases, Washington’s overriding purpose was political—to forge closer working relations with the militaries of the two countries as well as to set a precedent, which is now being invoked to exert pressure on the Burmese junta.
US Secretary of State Rice bluntly told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2005 that the tsunami constituted “a wonderful opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of the American people... And I think it has paid great dividends for us.” Rice now declares that US aid offers to Burma are “not a matter of politics”, but the Bush administration is intent on transforming this latest disaster into a new political “opportunity” to advance its strategic and economic interests in the region.
The decision of the Burmese junta to selectively accept aid from sympathetic countries such as China, India and Thailand, and not the US, is hardly surprising. The Bush administration has made little secret of the fact that it favours “regime change” in Burma—the removal of the military regime and its replacement by a government, headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, more amenable to Washington’s interests and to opening up the country to foreign investors.
The US targetting of the junta has nothing to do with concern for the democratic rights or the welfare of the Burmese people. Washington’s hostility towards the Burmese regime is driven above all by the latter’s close association with China, regarded by the US as its main potential rival. Over the past eight years, the Bush administration has pursued a strategy of strengthening military ties and establishing bases in a string of countries around China—from South Korea and Japan to the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia and around to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Central Asia republics.
Burma is a significant hole in US efforts to “contain” China. The country sits next to the strategic Strait of Malacca—the major sea-lane linking North East Asia, including China, with the energy resources of the Middle East and Africa. Control of such “choke points” has long been central to American naval plans. China has assisted Burma in building various naval facilities and counts on access to Burmese ports as part of its efforts to protect shipping lanes that are vital for its own economy.
The international media is already making criticisms of China for failing to exert more pressure on its ally to open up to international aid. US Secretary of State Rice phoned her counterpart in Beijing this week to push the Chinese government to exert more pressure on Burma. If the Bush administration did decide to press for a UN resolution to intervene, Beijing would quickly become a more direct target of vilification. China has opposed any move to raise the cyclone disaster in the UN Security Council.
There is also a broader economic agenda behind Washington’s hostility to the Burmese junta. For decades, it has maintained a largely shut-in, isolated economy in which military-run enterprises still dominate the key sectors. For American corporations, the country is a new potential source of cheap labour as well as critical resources, including oil and gas. The US administration has quietly allowed the Chevron oil corporation to proceed with its multi-million dollar investments in Burma, but such operations are hindered by bad relations between the two countries.
The Bush administration is no more motivated by humanitarian concerns in Burma than it is in Iraq or Afghanistan. In rejecting the latest lies and hypocrisy from the White House, it is necessary to consider the fundamental issues involved. Why do such catastrophes repeatedly hit the most vulnerable layers of the world’s population? Why do disease, hunger and poverty continue to ravage the masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America?
The resources exist to abolish suffering and want, as well as to minimise the impact of natural disasters such as Cyclone Nargis. Over the past three decades, the globalisation of production has vastly expanded mankind’s economic capacity, establishing the basis for the rational planning and deployment of resources on a world scale to ensure a decent standard of living for people in every part of the globe. Under capitalism, however, this huge economic and scientific capacity is exploited to provide profits for the wealthy few, while the vast majority, including in the major industrialised countries, struggle to survive from day to day.
Poverty and unemployment are no aberration. The vast layers of the world’s urban and rural poor are an essential feature of global capitalism. They form a vast reserve army of labour that is used as a constant downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the working class internationally. The only means for abolishing the immense and deepening chasm between rich and poor is through the revolutionary restructuring of society along socialist lines, so that the burning needs of the overwhelming majority of humanity take precedence over the profit requirements of the few.