Don't Stand For It--Join us in demanding an end to human rights abuses in Burma.
Thursday, November 19, 1998
I fast the first Friday of each month. I do this because it gives me opportunities to tell people why: I wish to call attention to an atrocity being perpetrated upon the people of Burma.
The U.S. Department of State has declared that the murderous junta in control of Burma (renamed by them as Myanmar) has one of the worst human rights records of any regime on earth. These thugs (named as such in a 1995 Wall Street Journal editorial), in control since 1962, put down mass protests by students and other citizens in 1988 by killing thousands of them.
In 1990, they held elections set up to legitimize themselves. Instead, the people voted overwhelmingly for the opposition. The National League for Democracy (NLD) won 382 of 485 parliamentary seats (vs. 10 by the military junta-backed National Unity Party). The response: the junta placed the newly elected party leader under house arrest and refused to allow the parliament to sit.
Eight years later, the party leader, 1991 Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is still under extreme restrictions on her movement. Now, as she calls for the parliament to convene finally, the junta has arrested over 800 NLD party members, including about 200 of those elected to parliament. Already some have died while in custody.
How can they do this? Iron military control, ruthless subjugation of an entire people. How do they finance their actions? By letting Burma become the world''s largest center for production and trafficking in opium and heroin. By opening the resources of the country to the international corporations for development (exploitation)? By forcing citizens into slave labor.
Official disapproval of their acts and condemnation by governments of the world has had little or no effect on the junta. It''s like South Africa, with its official government policy of apartheid, all over again. So there is a citizens'' movement to call for sanctions against Burma in the same way we practically sanctioned the government of South Africa out of power. In a 1996 speech, Aung San Suu Kyi specifically asked that foreign companies not invest in Burma, saying that foreign investment "only serves to prolong the agony of my country."
In countless cities, counties, universities and states, citizens have pressured their elected representatives to adopt a policy and pass a resolution on "selective purchasing" with respect to Burma. In at least 22 instances, they have succeeded. In those political jurisdictions they solve the webs of corporate lineage and prevent contracts with or investments in, or penalize in other ways, companies that persist in doing business in or with the junta controlling Burma. And it''s effective. So much so that the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), representing about 550 major U.S. corporations, sued the state of Massachusetts in a federal court for having passed such a resolution. And the World Trade Organization, at the behest of international corporate and financial interests, tried to influence that court. They apparently wish to tell the citizens of Massachusetts, "You may not have a voice in how and where your tax dollars are to be spent if it will affect our international business!"
At the first level, the court has ruled in their favor.
Let''s join with San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Monica and other California cities, in telling our city councils (and our county Board of Supervisors) that we wish to send a message to the thugs in control of Burma: We do not accept what they are doing. To be sure that they "hear" our message, we will not permit city/county business to be contracted too any company that does business in or with the junta in control of Burma, nor will public funds be invested in those companies.
To learn more, contact the Free Burma Coalition at 202/777-6007 or http://www.freeburmacoalition.org. Charles Turk, Ph.D., retired, has lived in the mountains south of Laguna Seca since 1988.