Monday, 17 March 2008

Bullets cannot kill freedom in the heart

By May Ng
Mizzima News
March 17, 2008

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart," teaches Buddha.

Until the Saffron Revolution, images over the Internet were not expected to have much impact in Burma, since most people in the isolated country lack access to the Internet. But when, following widely available images of the opulent wedding of General Than Shwe's daughter, August's fuel price hike left poor Burmese on the verge of starvation, the people's anger was aroused.

During September's Saffron Revolution, the Burmese military was at a loss as to how the closely guarded country leaked pictures and information about the bloody protests to the worldwide media. And after killing, imprisoning and driving political protesters underground, the Burmese army and its supporter, China, confidently announced to the world that peace and order were restored in Burma.

Since then the Burmese junta has been playing a cat and mouse game with web-surfers, deliberately slowing down the Internet connection. China reportedly employs thirty thousand cyber hackers to infiltrate individuals and governments across the globe. Last year Russia shut down a neighboring governments' Internet access during a period of heightened conflict.

In response to cyber censorship throughout the world, Reporters Without Borders launched the first Online Free Expression Day on March 12. They remarked, "We are giving all Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate in places where protests are not normally possible. We hope many will come and protest in virtual versions of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Cuba's Revolution Square, or on the streets of Rangoon in Burma. At least 62 cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned worldwide, while more than 2,600 websites; blogs or discussions forums were closed or made inaccessible in 2007".

The Burmese military is being trained in Russia in computer technology and China gives enormous support, including Internet technology, to the Burmese army. Burma related news and information network sites are under constant attack by cyber assailants in support of the Burmese junta.

Similar to events during the Saffron Revolution in Burma, the latest information from Tibet is now being delayed and distorted as the autonomous region is witnessing widespread unrest to Chinese rule. While Beijing told the world a few days ago that the outbreak of protests in Tibet has been under control and inconsequential, the situation has escalated, involving death and destruction. Instead of taking responsibility, China points the finger at exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and accuses him of plotting the violence as part of "separatist sabotage."

As fires burn in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, neither has the iron grip of Beijing prevented Tibetan news from reaching the world, nor have the iron rods beaten the desire for freedom from the hearts of Tibetans.

For six decades China has conquered the Tibetans' sky but not their hearts. To do so China must begin with truth and tolerance, which takes a lot more courage and determination than the challenges of the Olympics.

For now, China and its partner, the Burmese junta, are clearly not up to the task of facing truth or tolerance. Until they do, the Beijing Olympics will be a mockery of the ultimate human aspiration for peace and freedom.

May Ng is a Burmese member of Justice for Human Rights in Burma.

Brown blasts Rudd over Tibet

March 17, 2008 - Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has accused the prime minister of been "effectively silent" on a violent crackdown on Tibetan protesters by Chinese authorities.

Mr Rudd's reaction to the crackdown, compared to his stance against the military in Burma, was double standards, he said.

"I can't believe that this prime minster has been so effectively silent except for calling for restraint, whatever that is," Senator Brown told reporters today in Canberra.

"When the Burmese crisis was on last year, with Buddhist monks and nuns being shot and incarcerated and tortured, this prime minister called on the then (Howard) government for targeted sanctions against the Burmese regime and for coordinated worldwide condemnation of Burma.

"Now, we've got the same thing happening in Tibet and the prime minister, who's made such a feature of his understanding and relationship with China, is effectively saying nothing except: 'Let's have restraint'."

Senator Brown said seven million Tibetan people had been treated abominably and had no rights.

They were being treated cruelly just for calling for the freedom of their own country, he said.

"Our prime minister and this government has got to get some backbone over Tibet and speak up and look the Chinese communist dictatorship in the eye when Kevin Rudd gets to China and call on China to haul off on Tibet," Senator Brown said.

AAP - Sydney Morning Herald

Noppadon seems woefully uninformed on Burma issue

By Julian Pieniazek
Nation Multi Media

The latest edict from Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama concerning his government's policy toward Burma is monumentally and breathtakingly staggering in the way it completely ignores all the plainly dreadful facts of recent events in Burma.

March 17, 2008 - His edict ignores the brutal assault and murder of monks and peaceful citizenry and the abject state of a nation that was once (before the generals) a shining light of development in the region. Now some 70 per cent of the population are living on a dollar a day, infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world (according to a UN study, nearly 400 children under the age of five die every day from preventable diseases) and per-capita spending on health and education is around 50 US cents per year!

But that is only part of it. The foreign minister also seems to be totally unaware of the complete and utter intransigence being shown by the junta in the face of all efforts by the UN and most governments around the world to encourage serious moves toward real democracy.

Noppadon Pattama's apparent attempt at rapprochement with the generals is a slur against the whole of Thailand - any government that cares to deal with such murderers and crooks drags their country's reputation through the most stench-ridden gutter imaginable. Can he honestly believe that his words stand a snowball-in-hell's chance of being taken at face value when he chooses to completely disregard the "elephants in the sitting room" - human rights, justice and the litany of crimes against the Burmese people committed by that dreadful regime?

Athletes considering Beijing boycott: IOC official


March 16, 2008 - International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president Thomas Bach says a number of top athletes are considering boycotting the games in China over the bloody crackdown on protesters in Tibet.

"Several sports stars are feeling ill at ease when they think about the Olympic Games. Some are even considering cancelling," Mr Bach, of Germany, told Sunday's edition of the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Mr Bach said he understood the athletes' concerns about the situation in Tibet but said he was advising them to participate.

"They will realise when they assess the situation that it is better to make an appearance than to stay away. That is a symbol that will be noticed by the public," he said.

Asked if human rights had been a concern when Beijing was selected to host the Games in August, Mr Bach said the IOC believed the intense focus on China would have a positive effect.

"We are of the opinion that the Games will help China open up. But we cannot solve the problems that UN secretaries general have not been able to solve for generations," he said.

"The Olympic Games can foster change and be a catalyst for a solution but they are not a panacea."

Mr Bach said the current debate over China reminded him of the discussions before the US-led boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

He urged an end to the violence in Tibet.

"We call on both sides to reject violence," he said. "I hope there will be a peaceful solution."

Source: AFP - Phayul