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Demonstrations and Media Crackdowns Mark 3rd Anniversary of Saffron Revolution

By Burma Partnership  •  September 27, 2010

Today marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Saffron Revolution when tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators led by Buddhist monks took to the streets of Burma’s cities, triggered by an overnight 500% increase in fuel prices on 15 August 2007. The protests escalated to hundreds of thousands of monks, nuns, and citizens participating in over 150 protests across the country. On 26 September, the SPDC launched a violent crackdown, arresting over 3,000 people and raiding monasteries. At least 31 people were killed. The international community responded with sharp criticisms and supporters around the world held solidarity protests. Read more.

This year’s anniversary was again marked by demonstrations and events around the world, including Chiang Mai and Bangkok, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, India, and the United States, where supporters commemorated those who risked their lives three years ago to oppose the ruthless military regime.

During the demonstration in Manila, the Free Burma Campaign – Philippines denounced this year’s elections by the SPDC as “a desperate attempt at showing the region and the world that they are on the right path to democracy.” Demonstrators from the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma managed to enter the SPDC consulate in Hong Kong for the first time without obstruction. SPDC consulate officers quickly turned off the lights and hid from the protestors, who were escorted out by building security 15 minutes later. See photos.

Exiled Burmese media websites also came under attack today and were still partly unavailable at the time of publishing. On a mirror site, the Irrawaddy wrote that, “The attacks coincide with the third anniversary of the “Saffron Revolution,” the monk-led protest in Burma. The first major attack was in September 2008, on the first anniversary.” These attacks demonstrate the importance of the exiled media in broadcasting information about the military regime to Burma’s diaspora and the international community and, as such, the threat they pose to the regime. The timely attack on the anniversary of the Saffron Revolution is another indication that the regime has no intentions of opening up physical or online political space in Burma before the elections.

This past week, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights met from 20-24 September in Kuala Lumpur. The Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights (SAPA TF-AHR) requested a meeting with the commission, but once again found their request denied in contradiction to ASEAN’s official purpose “to promote a people-oriented ASEAN”. SAPA TF-AHR, including representatives from over 50 civil society and people’s organizations from Southeast Asia, prepared a submission to the AICHR, which urgently called on the AICHR to address the appalling situation of widespread and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws in Burma. The submission also called for the regime to “ensure that human rights law and standards are respected and protected during the election period and beyond”.

On this significant anniversary, ASEAN – particularly AICHR – and the international community must act to address issues of human rights violations, political repression and systemic economic instability in Burma. Hundreds of thousands of people in Burma courageously united three years ago to call for change, but were brutally struck down by the military. The international community, free from the repression of the military regime, must echo the calls from the people of Burma demanding genuine change and national reconciliation.

The human rights violations committed by the SPDC regime with impunity must come to an end. On 22 September, France became the 10th country to support the creation of a UN commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes being committed in Burma, following Australia, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the United States, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand, and Netherlands. Other countries must follow their lead and express their support for this crucial fact-finding commission.

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