Let the Burmese Peoples’ True Leaders Govern

7 August 2003

Free Burma Coalition (Amnesty International – Pilipinas;
Mariners Association for Regional and International Networking
Organization {MARINO}; Alliance for Progressive Labor {APL};
Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP);
Balay Rehabilitation Center)

It has been almost three months since that Black Friday on May 30 and the crackdown on the National League for Democracy (NLD). In the meantime the United States has imposed economic sanctions on Burma. Although vague, Thailandhas proposed a “road map” for the restoration of democracy to Burma. Malaysia is openly thinking of kicking out its ward out of the ASEAN if persuasion fails to move the generals to heed its concerns. And the formerly reticent ASEAN – including the Philippine Foreign Ministry– has issued calls for the military junta to free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

What is further on down the road? Indeed, the international climate has changed in terms of intervention and preventive action. It’s a post-Iraq world, a post-9/11 world. The world has recognized that internal affairs do not carry much weight any longer. Especially if it concerns intransigent rogue states that stand in the way of regional stability.

We are here today to remember the August 8, 1988 popular uprising in Burma.

That day is imprinted in the minds of the Burmese peoples and its supporters worldwide as an expression of the Burmese popular will to overthrow military rule and install Burma’s true civilian leaders.

But the reality that faces us today is the junta clinging on to power through naked military might and repression of the people’s sentiments. This, despite the landslide election of opposition leaders in 1990. This despite the mounting calls from governments, international groups and bodies such as ASEAN, E.U. International organizations and UN bodies, including the UN, for the junta to virtually step down and start democratic transition in Burma.

We stand here today to remind the junta that undemocratic governments will not last. We stand here to proclaim our solidarity with the Burmese people’s will.

We call on the SPDC to free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, including the long-detained Ming Ko Naing and the “Black Friday” detainees.

We urge the Burmese military to immediately stop hostilities and human rights violations against the people.

We call on the ASEAN to face this crisis squarely by reviewing the status of Burma’s membership and to develop a time frame for Burma to comply with ASEAN guidelines. ASEAN should put Burma as its priority agenda item at the ASEAN summit in October. Better still is sending a high-level ASEAN delegation to Rangoon to persuade the SPDC to dialogue with the democratic forces and ethnic nationalities. And ASEAN should also open formal channels with these forces themselves.

We call on the Philippine President herself to issue stronger calls for the unconditional release of Suu Kyi and the political prisoners to defuse tension in Burma and pave the way for a “tripartite” dialogue between the junta, the democratic opposition and the ethnic minorities.

There are also practical ways of Philippine support: by issuing refugee status or residency status to exiled Burmese people in the Philippines; or simply by opening Philippine schools to the Burmese.

We likewise call on the UN Security Council to force the junta to implement the 1990 election results in Burma and to engage in a tripartite dialogue to speed up democratic transition of power in Burma.

Lastly, we call on all peoples, nations, governments to recognize the legitimate representatives of the Burmese and ethnic peoples. It is high time that these representatives be openly supported, provided with all the assistance they need including diplomatic license to fast track the transition of Burma to freedom and democracy.

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