The people of the Southeast Asian country of Burma are locked in one of the world’s great freedom struggles. The country’s military rulers, the State Peace and Development Council, have run the country with an iron fist for the past 19 years, after they assumed power from a 26-year socialist dictatorship. In 1988, students, professionals, and others launched a nationwide uprising aimed at bringing an end to authoritarian rule during which millions of people courageously marched on the streets, calling for freedom and democracy.
The military responded by gunning down thousands of demonstrators and imprisoning thousands more in one of Southeast Asia’s most bloody episodes in recent history. The leader of the demonstrations, Min Ko Naing (pronounced Min Ko Nine), has been held behind bars ever since, where approximately 1,400 political prisoners remain. The most recognizable face of Burma, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Daw Aung Sawn Sue Chee), has been in and out of house arrest and prison since 1988. Presently, she is held under house arrest.
The Burmese military regime has continued it’s brutal domination over its people. Numerous governments, NGOs (non governmental organizations), United Nations bodies, and international organizations have documented Burma’s widespread problems: ranging from intense human rights violations, complete deterioration of healthcare, education, and functioning economy. They have also worked to silence all forms of free speech or thought. Thousands have been imprisoned for merely voicing their desire for a free and democratic country.The world witnessed the Burmese government’s obscenities this Fall during the Saffron Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in peaceful demonstration, lead by Buddhist monks, demanding peace and freedom in their country, only to be countered with force. Thousands were imprisoned, hundreds were killed, and monasteries were raided.
At the same time, the regime, intent on dominating the entire country, has responded with brutal force, raping, slaughtering, or forcibly displacing millions of ethnic peoples. Several of the ethnic groups refuse to come under complete domination, and so the military has responded by attempting to wipe out all support. So far, in the past ten years, over 3,500 villages have been destroyed in eastern Burma. There are over 2 million internally displaced people, with well over a million who have fled to other countries.
Aung San Suu Kyi has asked us to “Please use your liberty to promote ours” and so we will keep on working for a free Burma. We need your help so please join us in this struggle.