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Burmese protest country’s military despots

Originally appeared in The Journal Gazette

June 1, 2010

About 35 Burmese activists gathered downtown Monday to protest Myanmar’s military regime and demand the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Carrying flags and banners in front of the Allen County Courthouse, the group also sought to bring attention to the seventh anniversary of the Depayin massacre, in which it believes hundreds of pro-democracy activists were killed.

In a statement, members of Fort Wayne’s Burmese American Society also urged global leaders to recognize the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, and to push for its inclusion in Myanmar’s elections.

“Burma is about to have an election, and many Burmese and the people protesting today are not going to accept it,” local Burmese leader Aung Myint Htun said through a translator. “We don’t approve of an election because we know the military is still going to be in charge of Burma.”

On May 30, 2003, a pro-democracy group led by Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was attacked by a mob allegedly hired by the military regime near the city of Depayin in north-central Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Opposition groups said hundreds of pro-democracy activists were killed, although the government said the death toll was four and denied any involvement.

The Myanmar military junta accused Suu Kyi of being responsible for the massacre and arrested her.

Later she was moved to her residence in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, and has remained under house arrest ever since.

The government accuses Suu Kyi of violating her house arrest – which had been scheduled to end soon – when an American swam across a lake and sneaked into her home.

Fort Wayne is home to about 5,500 Burmese refugees who fled the country to escape the 60-year civil war.

Pyepye Aung, 12, accompanied her father, Aung Myint Htun, to the protest Monday.

“I’m interested in this stuff,” she said. “We protest so that more Americans might try to help.

“When the regime is out of power, then we’ll get our rights and freedom.”

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