Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Burma’

Hanging by a Thread

Dear Friends,

Most people didn’t know who the Rwandans were until it was too late, and 800,000 of them were dead. Right now, the fate of Burma’s Rohingya people is hanging by a thread. Racist thugs have distributed leaflets threatening to wipe out this small Burmese minority. Already children have been hacked to death and unspeakable murders committed. All signs are pointing to a coming horror, unless we act.

5601_4740_rohingya1_1_459x230_3_200x100

Genocides happen because we don’t get concerned enough until the crime is committed. The Rohingya are a peaceful and very poor people. They’re hated because their skin is darker and the majority fear they’re ‘taking jobs away’. There are 800,000 of them, and they could be gone if we don’t act. We’ve failed too many peoples, let’s not fail the Rohingya.

Burmese President Thein Sein has the power, personnel and resources to protect the Rohingya, all he has to do is give the word to make it happen. In days, he’ll arrive in Europe to sell his country’s new openness to trade. If EU leaders greet him with a strong request to protect the Rohingya, he’s likely to do it. Let’s get 1 million voices and plaster images of what’s happening in Burma outside his meetings with key EU heads of state:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/we_said_never_again_en/?bMPbqab&v=26526

Torture, gang rape, execution style killings — human rights groups are using the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the brutality in Burma. Already more than 120,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee, many to makeshift camps near the border, while others have fled in boats only to drown, starve, or be shot at by coastguards from neighboring countries. Reports show that violence is escalating — earlier this year President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency after another round of deadly attacks, and it’s just a matter of time until there is a large scale massacre.

Genocides don’t happen when governments oppose them, but the Burmese regime has been leaning the wrong way. Recently, a government spokesperson admitted that authorities were enforcing a rule that limits the Rohingya population to having only two children and forces couples seeking to get married to obtain special permission. And experts report that government authorities have stood by or even participated in acts of “ethnic cleansing.” President Sein has finally been forced to acknowledge what’s happening to the Rohingya, but he has so far refused to implement plans to stop the violence and protect those at risk.

Until he does, the risk of genocide hovers like a dark cloud over not just Burma, but the world. Through their trade relations, UK PM Cameron and French President Hollande have massive leverage with Sein — if they press him to act when he meets with them this month, it could save lives. Let’s make sure they do. We’ve failed too many peoples, let’s not fail the Rohingya. Join the call now and share this with everyone:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/we_said_never_again_en/?bMPbqab&v=26526

Time and again, the Avaaz community has stood with the people of Burma in their fight for democracy. When the regime brutally cracked down on Buddhist monks in 2007, Avaazers donated hundreds of thousands of dollars/euros/pounds to provide technical support and training to activists to fight a communications blackout. In 2008, when a devastating cyclone killed at least 100,000 Burmese, but the venal military regime stopped all official international aid from coming in, our community donated millions directly to monks on the front line of the aid effort.

Our community didn’t exist when genocide was committed in Rwanda, 20 years ago. Would we have done enough to stop it? Let’s show the Rohingya our answer to that question.

With hope and determination,

Luis, Jeremy, Aldine, Oliver, Marie, Jooyea and the whole Avaaz team

Suu Kyi In D.C.

Dear Gabriel,

I wish you could have been with me when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition leader and former prisoner of conscience in Myanmar, electrified the Amnesty Rights Generation Town Hall this morning at Washington DC’s Newseum.

Today’s heart-stopping moments are too many to recount – here is a small sample:

Aung San Suu Kyi spoke with unflagging conviction and courage, filling me with pride for the role Amnesty supporters like you played in securing her release and sustaining her spirits over the last 23 years.
Alex Wagner, our moderator from MSNBC, recalled how as a child visiting family in Burma she drove by Daw Suu’s compound with a feeling of fear, admiration, and yearning.

The entire audience proclaimed ourselves “all Aung San Suu Kyi” and held up a mask with her picture on it; the next moment we each turned our mask over to reveal the faces of other prisoners of conscience who remain behind bars.

Indeed, it’s been a long road, yet our journey is not over. Strengthen our work – donate to Amnesty International.

Aung San Suu Kyi is free, but prisoners of conscience around the world are denied their basic freedoms. We take up their cases with equal vigor. It is what makes Amnesty unique, and necessary.

The reason Aung San Suu Kyi made time during her visit to the United States to join our Town Hall was precisely because she wanted to inspire legions of activists to work on behalf of other prisoners the way they worked for her.

As Amnesty supporters, you and I have the power to change the course of history, to right great wrongs.

Realize that power with me today – make a gift today and your impact will be doubled.

I’ve set a bold goal of inspiring 50,000 gifts this month during our annual Membership Drive. Thanks to a generous donor, we can match every dollar of your donation made before Sept. 30.

Political repression comes in many forms. Take the case of feminist Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot, so poignantly represented at today’s Town Hall meeting.

Last month, three members of Pussy Riot were convicted of “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” for playing a protest song in a cathedral. They are headed to a prison camp for two years.

Today, Pyotr and Gera Verzilov, the husband and 4-year old daughter of present-day prisoner of conscience Nadja Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, presented Daw Suu with a bouquet of flowers, as a torch passed from one generation of prisoners of conscience to the next.

Like Daw Suu’s imprisonment, the Pussy Riot conviction is a bitter blow to free speech. It reminds us never to take for granted the hard-fought human rights we have secured.

As long as people like the women of Pussy Riot are behind bars, we know what we must do. We must join and act for the greater good.

But Amnesty doesn’t work without you, so please, do your part to keep this movement strong – make a contribution to Amnesty International today.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi In U.S.

Dear Gabriel,

We host. You ask. She answers.

Amnesty International USA is deeply honored to host a once-in-a-lifetime town hall event featuring Burmese freedom fighter, Nobel Laureate and Amnesty Ambassador of Conscience, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Rights Generation: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Inspires the Next will take place in front of a live audience of young activists at the Newseum in Washington, DC, on Thursday, September 20, from 11:30AM-1PM ET.

Ask Daw Suu your question about human rights and she may answer it live on stage in front of a global audience.

This is Daw Suu’s first visit to the U.S. in more than 20 years, after spending years in detention and house arrest. She credits the Amnesty movement with helping to secure her release, and says hope for the future kept her going during those dark and uncertain times.

That’s why she wants to hear from you, the next generation of human rights activists. Together she seeks to ignite and fuel a passion for human rights work.

“Throughout these years, you have helped us keep our small wick of self respect alight. We hope that you will be with us in the years to come…and that you will help us be the country where hope and history merges.” — Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Be a part of this historic conversation with one of the most revered human rights leaders of our day. Click here to submit your question to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for our live Sept. 20 event.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Want to watch? We’ll be live streaming the event online at amnestyusa.org/rightsgeneration. Mark your calendars and tune in on Thursday, Sept. 20 from 11:30AM-1PM ET!

21 Years Later

Dear Gabriel,

21 years later, the Nobel Peace Prize is finally where it belongs — in the hands of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Burmese human rights defender made history this weekend when she officially accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. When Suu Kyi was originally awarded the Prize in 1991, she was under house arrest and couldn’t accept it in person. She wasn’t freed until November 2010 — after years of international pressure and thousands upon thousands of letters from Amnesty activists like you demanding her release.

We shone a light for Aung San Suu Kyi. Now we need to shine a light of freedom for every last prisoner of conscience in Myanmar. Hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars there, simply for calling for freedom and democracy.

Myanmar must unlock the doors and free all prisoners of conscience now!

Watching Aung San Suu Kyi travel freely around the world with passport and now Nobel Peace Prize in hand fills us with joy and hope. But we cannot rest until all prisoners of conscience have been freed. And this is what Aung San Suu Kyi herself urged us to do in her Nobel acceptance speech on Saturday:

“… I was once a prisoner of conscience. As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the often-repeated truth that ‘one prisoner of conscience is one too many.'” — Aung San Suu Kyi

Today in Dublin, Ireland, Amnesty International will celebrate the remarkable life’s work of Aung San Suu Kyi by awarding her the prestigious “Ambassador of Conscience Award.” There is no better day to honor Suu Kyi and echo the powerful message that she and Amnesty International have long supported — that human rights matter.

When you take action now, Myanmar’s government will hear our message loud and clear — where there is freedom for one, there must be freedom for all!

In solidarity,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Director, Individuals at Risk Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Hope In Burma

Personal Note: Our local AIUSA Group in Santa Cruz (the fifth to be started in the U.S.) has been working for the release of two specific individuals in Burma for years. It has now been confirmed that one of them and possibly the other, have been released as part of this recent government amnesty. – Gabriel

From Nation of Change and Inter Press Service
by Jim Lobe
14 January 2012

Burma Release, Ceasefire Hailed by Obama, Rights Groups

he administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Friday hailed the release by the Burmese government of hundreds of political prisoners, suggesting that it went far toward satisfying Washington’s conditions for fully normalizing ties between the two countries.

In a statement released by the White House after the first releases were confirmed, Obama called it a “crucial step in Burma’s democratic transformation and national reconciliation process”.

“I have directed Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton and my Administration to take additional steps to build confidence with the government and people of Burma so that we seize this historic and hopeful opportunity.”

For her part, Clinton, who met last December with President Thein Sein and the country’s most famous dissident, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, during the first trip by a U.S. secretary of state to Burma in nearly 60 years, called the releases “a substantial and serious step forward in the government’s stated commitment to political reform”.

She added that the administration will soon send an ambassador to Burma, among other measures, to “strengthen and deepen our ties with both the people and the government”.

She also praised a ceasefire agreement reached Thursday between the government and the six-year-old Karen National Union (KNU) insurgency as an “important step forward”.

At the same time, she stressed, as did Obama in his statement, that full normalization will depend on continuing progress on all fronts, “including taking further steps to address the concerns of ethnic minority groups, making sure that there is a free and fair by- election, and making all the releases from prison unconditional, and making sure that all remaining political detainees are also released.”

International human rights group echoed the administration’s praise but also warned against a rush toward normalization, noting that the 651 political prisoners to be freed by the amnesty announced Friday may still leave as many as 1,000 behind bars.

“Today’s release of some of Myanmar’s political prisoners was the result of concerted, sustained pressure by the international community and bold leadership by the United States,” said Suzanne Nussel, executive director of the U.S. chapter of Amnesty International (AIUSA).

“While we welcome the releases, thousands more remain behind bars. Pressure for progress on the remaining prisoners and other human rights concerns in Myanmar must not abate,” she said.

“The risk is that the restoration of ties between the two countries may be premature and could weaken the pressure to address critical areas of unfinished business in addressing serious human rights abuses in Myanmar.”

“The United States has demonstrated that engagement combined with pressure can deliver important breakthroughs, and must sustain both elements of its approach.”

Similarly, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) hailed the release as a “crucial development in promoting respect for human rights in Burma” but called for all remaining political prisoners to be freed “immediately and unconditionally”.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Sliver of Hope in Burma

From BBC NEWS ASIA
18 November 2011

Suu Kyi’s NLD democracy party to rejoin Burma politics.

The party of Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to re-enter the political process and contest parliamentary elections.

On Friday her National League for Democracy said it would register to run in the as yet unscheduled by-elections.

The party boycotted the last polls in November 2010, the first in 20 years.

Meanwhile the US is to send Hillary Clinton to Burma next month, amid what President Barack Obama called “flickers of progress” in the nation.

Mr Obama spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi before deciding to send Mrs Clinton, who will be the first US secretary of state to visit in 50 years.

BBC South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey says the developments are being seen as endorsements of the steps taken by the military-backed but civilian-led government towards political reform.
‘Unanimous decision’

The announcement followed a meeting of 100 senior NLD leaders in Rangoon.

“We unanimously decide that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will register according to party registration laws, and we will take part in the coming by-elections,” a party statement said.

It boycotted the previous polls because of election laws that banned Aung San Suu Kyi – a former political prisoner – from running.

But this regulation has since been dropped, and Aung San Suu Kyi said she now wanted the party to contest all 48 seats left vacant in parliament by the appointment of ministers.

A spokesman for the NLD said it was likely that Aung San Suu Kyi would run for office. And the pro-democracy leader herself said she would do what she thought was necessary.

“If I think I should take part in the election, I will. Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity,” AFP news agency quoted her as saying.

“I stand for the re-registration of the NLD party. I would like to work effectively towards amending the constitution. So we have to do what we need to do.”

The NLD won elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power. Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest but was freed a year ago by the new government.

Since then it has entered into dialogue with her and freed some – but by no means all – political prisoners.

Aung San Suu Kyi has given a cautious welcome to the moves, but says more progress is needed.

Mr Obama echoed her view in comments at a regional summit in Bali.

Read complete article at BBC NEWS ASIA

Myanmar/Burma Prisoners

Myanmar must release all prisoners of conscience. (17 October 2011 – AI)

Image (below) : Su Su Nway (third from left) was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. She was released along with more than 200 other political prisoners. However at least four of the six people in this picture continue to languish behind bars, solely for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly. ©AAPPB

Myanmar released more than 6000 prisoners on 12 October 2011. But only about 200 of those released were political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience—that is, people held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

The government of Myanmar needs to release all prisoners of conscience immediately.

There are possibly as many as 1800 political prisoners still languishing behind bars in Myanmar. For decades political activists in Myanmar have been arbitrarily detained, tortured during interrogation, subjected to unfair trials and imprisoned in inhumane conditions in Myanmar’s notorious prisons.

Please TAKE ACTION

Last year, after Myanmar held its first elections in 20 years, the new government promised political reform. One of the key benchmarks for gauging the government’s sincerity about this promise is the release of all prisoners of conscience.

After this initial release of 200 political prisoners, expectations are high in Myanmar, across Asia and in other parts of the world. After years of campaigning our calls are gaining momentum.

Please TAKE ACTION

Let’s redouble our efforts to make the Myanmar government listen. Add your name to this petition calling on the Chairman of the newly-established Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to press the President of Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.

We aim to deliver your signatures to the Myanmar embassy in an ASEAN country on 13 November 2011, the first anniversary of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest.

Copies of this petition will also be sent to the Minister of Home Affairs, the Speaker of the Lower House, and the Chair of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

Please TAKE ACTION

HUMAN RIGHTS & MYANMAR

Burmese (Myanmar) holding photo of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently released after decades of house arrest and imprisonment.

Our local Amnesty International (AI) group was one of the first ones established in the U.S. In fact, we were the 5th. For over 40 years we, along with millions of people worldwide, have taken action to have prisoners of conscience released (people who have not committed any act of violence and are imprisoned solely for their political, religious or personal views and/or because of their gender or sexual preference); have fair and partial trials for anyone imprisoned; abolish the death penalty; and put a stop to torture and ill-treatment for any reason.

The Santa Cruz Chapter of AI has worked to have people released, torture stopped and people fairly treated while in detention, in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mynamar, Tibet, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and many more. Presently, we are trying to obtain the release of Myo Min Zaw and Ko Aye Aung, who were arrested in 1998 for distributing leaflets and organizing peaceful student demonstrations in Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon. They have been given sentences of 52 years and 59 years respectively. They have reportedly been tortured as well during interrogation. Both men are prisoners of conscience detained solely for the non-violent expression of their beliefs.

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING AND HELP!

WRITE COURTEOUSLY WORDED LETTERS AND EMAILS TO THE AUTHORITIES IN MYANMAR. Call on the authorities to ensure that:

Myo Min Zaw and Ko Aye Aung are released immediately and unconditionally. They are prisoners of conscience who are imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of rights guaranteed to them under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

• Myo Min Zaw and Ko Aye Aung are not subjected to torture or other forms of abuse including any and all cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

• Myo Min Zaw and Ko Aye Aung are able to access necessary medical care and be allowed to receive visits from legal advisors and family members

• All prisoners of conscience held in Myanmar are released

HERE IS WHO AND WHERE TO WRITE:

Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
Senior General Than Shwe
c/o Ministry of Defense
Naypyitaw
UNION OF MYANMAR (Burma)
Salutation: Dear Senior General Than Shwe

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Nyan Win
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Bldg. (19)
Naypyitaw
UNION OF MYANMAR (Burma)
Tel 011 95 67 41-2335
Fax 011 95 67 41-2336 or 011 95 97 41-2395
Email mofa.aung@mptmail.net.mm
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Information
Brigadier-General Kyaw Hsan
Ministry of Information
Bldg. (7)
Naypyitaw
UNION OF MYANMAR (Burma)
Fax 011 95 67 412 363
Email Media.moi@mptmail.net.mm
Salutation: Dear General

Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
2300 S. Street NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax 202-332-4351
Email info@mewashingtondc.com
Telephone 202-332-3344

***

To join the Santa Cruz Chapter of AI and/or attend our monthly meetings, please contact Laura Chatham at 831-440-9738 or LChatham @ surfnetusa.com

Monks, Meditation & Medicine

When Bob Stahl left his home town of Boston and went to college in Vermont, it was a class in religious studies and a quote from the Tao Te Ching that provided the context and words to what he innately knew as a child ever since his younger brother had died at the age of two. The quote said, “There is no need to look outside your window, for everything you need to know is inside you.” He began looking inside and found his way outside to California.

While attending graduate school in San Francisco, Mr. Stahl was invited to attend an Insight Mindfulness retreat. It was on that nine day retreat that Bob realized he had found his spiritual home. “It caused permanent neurological damage and I’ve never been the same, thank goodness,” Bob grins.

In 1980, one of Mr. Stahl’s professors invited him to travel to Burma to meet her meditation teacher Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Sayadaw. While in Burma Bob shaved his head, wore robes and took his bowl, with the other monks, to collect alms (daily food) in remote villages. After several months he returned to California and helped start a forest monastery in Boulder Creek called Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery. “I lived, studied and worked at the monastery for the next nine years,” Bob recalls.

In 1989 Bob left the monastery and met Jan Landry, formerly a nurse and chaplain at Hospice of Santa Cruz County. They were married and had two sons. He also received a book from a friend called Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn that spoke about using meditation in a medical setting. “I couldn’t believe someone wrote a book like this,” Bob says excitedly. “I wrote Kabat-Zinn a letter and he invited me to come to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. They showed me how their Stress Reduction Program worked, gave me their blessings and said to go start my own.”

Dr. Stahl became a counselor at the Cabrillo College Stroke Center in Aptos, California in 1990 and started teaching meditation. It was the first such program in the state. Within a few years, Dr. Stahl’s Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) was being utilized at hospitals throughout the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area.

While visiting a weekly MBSR alumni support meeting, a woman who once had TMJ (a painful condition of the jaw) said, “When I brought my awareness from the class to my jaw and saw how often I was clenching and tightening it, I was able to relax and let go. My TMJ totally disappeared.” Another woman, who completed the class only six months ago, says, “MBSR was like a life preserver. It has reduced my back pain and anxiety, as well as my reaction to distress.”

The “letting go” of the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program does not require one to become a passive observer, but rather to pay close attention to what IS happening at any given moment. Dr. Stahl quotes Victor Frankel, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, who once said, “Between the stimulus and the response there is a space and in that space lies our freedom.”

“We are often like sleepwalkers,” Bob states, “or on automatic pilot, reacting compulsively to our grasping and aversive natures. Insight Meditation helps us find another way to live.”

Mr. Stahl found another way to live as a monk and brought that awareness into his life as a husband, father and teacher. There are a lot of students and clients who are grateful that Dr. Stahl is no longer in his robes, begging for alms in a distant village, but is living here in The States taking one breath at a time.

Dr. Stahl and a colleague, Elisha Goldstein released A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Publications) earlier this year.

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