Tue 5 May 2009
Filed under: Letters,News,Opinion,Other
We are writing on behalf of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA) and the 88 Generation Students, two prominent opposition groups fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma by peaceful means. The 88 Generation Students group was founded in 2005 by former student leaders, who spent over a decade in prisons experiencing beatings and torture for their leading role organizing the nationwide democracy uprising in 1988. The 88 Generation Students led peaceful protests in August 2007 against the military junta’s sudden increase of fuel prices and many leaders of it, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Kywe, Jimmy and Mya Aye, were rearrested. Following their arrest, hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns, led by the ABMA, held peaceful demonstrations nationwide, calling for the junta to release all political prisoners and solve the problems through meaningful and time-bound dialogue with democratic opposition led by Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta responded with bloody and violent crackdown and many monks, nuns and lay people were brutally killed by its soldiers in September 2007, widely known as the Saffron Revolution. Many leading monks, including Ashin Gambira, were arrested. They have been sentenced to severe imprisonment and transferred to remote prisons. Solitary confinement and torture are their daily life.
We are deeply appreciative of the United States’ role under both Democratic and Republican administrations in supporting our freedom movement. We write this letter to you from a hiding place that is part of our underground movement. Since our arrest could be imminent, it is critical that we relay this important message to you.
We fully support the National League for Democracy party and the non-violent struggle for democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We join in the demand by the NLD to Burma’s military junta to release all political prisoners and allow them to participate in the country’s political process without fear of retribution. As it stands today, the constitution the junta has written unilaterally and adopted by force and fraud in May 2008 permanently enshrines military rule and creates the illusion of a democratic process. The planned upcoming “elections” in 2010 are designed to place a veneer of democratic process over a totalitarian, brutal junta.
We can not agree to participate under such an electoral farce. Doing so would mean that tens of thousands of Burmese patriots-democracy activists-who have fought for freedom and experienced torture, oppression and even death would have done so in vain. Their sacrifice to democracy and the future of our country would be worthless.
We want a Burma that is free, stable and at peace. We welcome an opportunity to engage with the military regime to review and revise the constitution through a tripartite dialogue taking place with all stakeholders: the military, the NLD and our ethnic representatives. We strongly believe that these demands are the solution to move our country on the path of national reconciliation and democratization peacefully. We appreciate the U.S. Government and Congress for taking strong economic and diplomatic actions against the Burma’s junta during the past decade. Your country’s actions represent a moral statement that America will not engage in trade with the Burma’s junta that will only serve to finance the military’s instruments of oppression. These measures are also necessary to remind the generals in power that their crimes against humanity and the brutal and terrible war they wage against their own people are fully noticed and strongly denounced by the civilized world.
Recently, the junta’s officials have asked the United Nations to try to remove economic sanctions on Burma. They have blamed the NLD, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and our democracy movement as instigators for these sanctions. They have been complaining that the U.S. and Western nations that have imposed sanctions are making the people poor, our country underdeveloped, and our economy destroyed. Let us be clear-it is the military junta and its disastrous economic policies, terror, corruption, illegal rule and mismanagement that have turned one of the richest countries in Asia into one of the least developed in the world.
We understand that you have ordered a review of Burma policy. Here are our recommendations.
(1) We believe that no sanctions should be lifted on the junta until political prisoners have been released and a meaningful dialogue between the junta, the NLD and representatives of our many ethnic groups has finalized a new constitution.
(2) We believe that U.S. leadership with strong diplomatic effort to organize other nations, especially Burma’s neighbors China, India and ASEAN, as well as the EU to work together to address the situation in Burma with common interest, shared responsibility, unified action, and clear benchmark will be the best way to make sanctions and engagement effective and produce positive results.
(3) We support the direct engagement between the U.S. and Burma’s military junta. However, such direct engagement should reach to the sole decision maker of the junta, Senior General Than Shwe.
(4) We suggest you should consider additional measures that include the addition of Burmese crony businessmen and the junta’s political surrogates to visa ban and financial sanctions lists; and calling for a global arms embargo at the U.N. Security Council; if the junta still refuses to implement the meaningful change.
We want to assure you that as you and the civilized world do your part, we do ours. Each of us has committed our lives to the freedom of our country in the same manner as your Founding Fathers did when they signed the Declaration of Independence. For us there is not going back from this freedom road we are traveling. We have confidence knowing that our country will be free because we have truth on our side where this junta has only brutality, guns, fear and terror to support it. We know our cause is just and we are joined by millions of our citizens.
One day, our country will be free. When that hour comes and the history of our democracy movement can be written, it will be with great appreciation how we will tell of the moral and political support that the American people gave to us during the darkest hours of our struggle.
And that out of your support a new country was born rooted in democratic rights and individual liberties.
Ashin Aww Bar Sa
All Burma Monks’ Alliance