Advocate Democracy in Myanmar
Advocate Democracy in Myanmar
By John Smith Thang
Members of the Chin Democracy and Human Rights Network staged a rally against the Myanmar government in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Korea on July 5.
The protest was in memorial of a pro-democracy leader ― an ethnic Chin student, Salai Tin Mg Oo, who was killed by Myanmar’s military government on June 24, 1976.
Salai Tin Maung Oo was popular among university students in 1974-75 for his dedicated fight against the brutal military regime in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
He and his colleagues organized a “U Thant Uprising” there in honor of U Thant, a former U.N. secretary general. After the military government prohibited the public from holding an honorable funeral for U Thant, Salai Tin Maung Oo and students led demonstrations to protest the dictatorial military rule.
Apart from the uprising, Salai Tin Maung Oo organized a “labor strike anniversary day” and “Mai-yar-pih events.” The military arrested him for his role in the uprising and pro-democracy movement.
Before Salai Tin Maung Oo was executed, military intelligence officers tried to persuade him to pledge to follow their authority in exchange for freedom. But he refused to do so and shouted, “I shall never kneel down under your soldiers’ boots.”
And he continued to shout in jail, “Comrades, they are killing me secretly.” Finally he was secretly hanged at Insein Jail on June 24, 1976.
His death brought great shock and anger to the whole country and particularly to ethnic minorities who were yearning for freedom and democracy. Salai Tin Maung Oo belonged to one of these groups.
In Myanmar, oppressing activists is routine. Since, the Myanmarese military government massacred student activists on July 7, 1962. Subsequently there were several repressive acts against Salai Tin Maung Oo and students in 1974.
And then there was a nationwide mass uprising in 1988 when the government forces brutally fired on the crowd ― killing about 3,000 innocent people. The Depayin massacre took place in May 2003 when the military alleged killed hundreds of people.
Again in September 2007, the military attacked and killed innocent people and monks who peacefully protested ― and many more people have “disappeared.”
Allegations have it that the military regime still continues to arrest pro-democracy and human rights activists. In recent days, the military took into custody pro-democracy icon Daw Aung San Su Kyi after 13 years of house arrest, without honoring the Nobel Peace Prize she won.
There are around 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar. And many ethnic minorities and Christians continue to be persecuted by the military regime.
At the moment, Myanmar’s military government is escalating its war in peripheral ethnic regions using weapons supplied by its closest allies, China and North Korea. Innocent people are suffering and tormented, and thousand of refugees have had to flee their homeland due to the military government’s policy,
The military regime is preparing for 2010 elections in order to tighten its grip on power, which is ostensibly supposed to be transferred to a democratic government.
A democratic government should have the following basic elements: a people’s constitution, judicial independence, free media, and free and fair elections. But the military government has failed to introduce any of these elements.
The government is reluctant to acknowledge the multiethnic fabric of Myanmarese society. There should be guaranteed ethnic-civil rights through mutual agreement, however, the military regime has adopted an ethnic cleansing policy.
The military government has neither guaranteed civil rights nor ethnic rights. It will never bring true democracy to Myanmar.
The military government should stop oppressing pro-democracy activists. The international community, particularly the United Nations, must make concerted efforts to ensure free and fair elections next year.
Also it is necessary for China to stop supporting Myanmar’s military regime. Additionally, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should do more to promote democracy in Myanmar, and not support the military government.
Finally we urge the international community to work to advocate democracy and freedom in Myanmar.
John Smith Thang is executive director of Chin Democracy and Human Rights Network based in Korea. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.