Sunday, September 30, 2007
Shoulder to Shoulder with Burma
On Friday I went to the Burmese Embassy in London to stand alongside exiles and ex-pat Burmese to protest at the brutal treatment of those protestors in Rangoon, the Burmese capital. I have never been to a demo before. Despite the many campaigns that I feel passionate about that have held demonstrations, I have never got up off my comfy chair to join them. Regular readers will remember that one of my first articles was about Burma. As the son of a man who came to this country from Rangoon to make a future for himself, I simply must do everything and anything that I can to support the people that have helped shape who I am.
From the days when my grandfather was in charge of the "scorch and burn" policy on Rangoon docks, destroying the ships and infrastructure that he had worked on for so many years to keep them from Japanese control in the Second World War to the detention of a family friend in Insein jail for four years with no charge or offence committed, the stories that I have been brought up with would make some reading. This having been said, all of my uncles and aunts are united about one thing; their childhood was an incredibly happy one. The memories of the excitement of childhood in a pleasant and prosperous city just make the pictures of the destruction of their birthplace all the more distressing. Just remember that this has been going on for over forty years. Whilst most people only know Burma from war films, a country that is rich in resources previously with one of the most educated populations in South East Asia has been reduced to penury, declared as the least developed country in the world and suffers systematic genocide. Still the United Nations remains impotent and useless thanks to the Chinese and Russians who sell weapons to the regime and other countries like South Africa who voted against a UN resolution earlier this year. This cynical move was to push a point home about the United Nations in general rather than anything about Burma. Yet it condemned thousands of people to further torture, imprisonment and death. If only the South Africans could see the people from Chin State that have been repeatedly stabbed before being thrown into salt water or the Karen people that have been gang-raped in front of their families before the men were killed and their villages razed to the ground.
Please spend a few minutes to watch the video. YouTube, blogging and mobile phones have made possible the pictures that we see on the news. I have had contact from someone in Thailand about my previous article. This blog was started and the prime purpose remains to make Carshalton central but we cannot underestimate the power of communication reaching across the world from our small part of South London. Several of the people that I spoke to had heard from people in Rangoon over the last few days including one man featured on the film who could hear the shots of automatic weapons over the phone as he spoke. I am so pleased that I went. The impact that it made on me was enormous, witnessing at first hand the passion and solidarity of the campaigners there and the calm of the Buddhist monks who led prayers shook me to the core.
Go to the Burma Campaign website and see what you can do. A little time from you will make an enormous contribution to the people of this country that is so often forgotten. If you have a profile on Facebook you can offer your support here. I dearly want to visit Rangoon, there are still members of my extended family there. But I cannot until the military dictatorship is removed and Burma is reclaimed from the tyrants.