PHILIPPINES — With drums and bugles, about 90 activists under the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines today held a rally in front of the Thai Royal Embassy in Makati City in time for the 14th Asean Summit.
Organizations present during the rally were: Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), KPML, Bagong Kamalayan, ZOTO and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).
Activists urged ASEAN member states to put on the summit’s agenda the human rights issue in Burma saying that the summit should serve as a “hot seat” for the Myanmar delegate.
“The military regime of Burma has a lot to answer. Its human rights record is not showing any degree of significant improvement and the ASEAN Summit ministers and delegates should not take a blind eye into this issue,“ Rasti Delizo FBC-Phils Convenor said during the rally.
AS IMPORTANT AS THE ISSUE OF FINANCIAL CRISIS
The group said ASEAN should come up with mechanism to “monitor human rights record” of Burma as the country’s ruling regime remain secretive and intransigent to the international clamor for political reforms in the said territory.
Delizo stressed, “The issue of continued human rights violations in Burma is as important as the issue of global financial meltdown. In the face of this financial crisis, you have here one member in the ASEAN that treats Burma’s coffers as its personal purse. The peoples of Burma are suffering politically and economically because their government doesn’t care even if millions will die in extreme hunger.”
ASEAN slogan brags about achieving a caring and sharing ASEAN community and one of the ASEAN Charter’s key pledges is to set up a regional human rights body.
“If this is true,” Delizo continued, “we challenge the ASEAN to begin monitoring the human rights situation in Burma; schedule a visit to Burma’s labour camps, detention centers, and try to see and feel the atmosphere of dictatorship there. Right now, ASEAN should go beyond its usual rhetoric and act concretely.”
RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
From the Thai Royal Embassy, the group proceeded to the Burma Embassy. With a replica of a “prison cell” with “prisoners” tied in shackles, the group dramatized the plight of political prisoners in Burma.
Unimpressed over the release of prisoners in Burma last week, FBC-Phils dubbed the move as an “old trick” by the military regime to deodorize the awful smell of its dismal human rights record.”
The group said that all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi must be released unconditionally.
“Torture, rape and murder are normal occurrences inside Burmese prisons. The junta cannot hide the fact that political prisoners suffer torture day and night and their families are even prohibited from visiting them. The entire country is like a huge garrison—there is no rule of law,” FBC-Phils explained.
Recently, prominent leaders of the popular Saffron revolution including their lawyers were sentenced by the military court to serve 65 years in prison.
“Burma is a dangerous place not just for activists but also for lawyers. Protection and promotion of human rights which is a very basic duty of the state is not happening. It is in this case that the international community has the obligation to act,” Delizo concluded.