10/02/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Help Myanmar, boycott the Beijing Olympics, say young Burmese

Group backing anti-junta revolt appeals to the international community. Witnesses talk under anonymity about massacres, but also of ongoing random resistance. Meantime soldiers are forcing entire villages to march in favour of the government

Yangon (AsiaNews) – “Put pressure on China and boycott the Olympics. Only you have the key to solve the Burma question,” said a group of young Burmese in appeal they made to AsiaNews. They, like the rest of the people of Myanmar, are continuing random demonstrations across the country, especially in Yangon and Mandalay.

“Troops have swamped the streets of every city,” said one of the young people who contacted AsiaNews. “A surreal calm prevails everywhere. Even monasteries and pagodas are under military control. But this has not stopped people from demonstrating. In the wake of the junta’s cruel reaction—shooting at people, banning assemblies—, it is difficult to organise mass gatherings. Still demonstrations continue, but they are more random: 50 to 10 people here and there, who disperse as soon as the soldiers arrive so as not to get caught.”

Government repression has taken a heavy toll. “At least 3,000 monks are in prison,” said one source. “Monasteries were raided and monks taken away. The residents in one monastery said that after one night raid six of their brethren were still missing. The same thing happened in the universities and in homes. Students, adults and kids were taken away to unknown locations.”

No one knows the true number of those who were in the last few days. Officially the junta announced that 13 people died, but mot people don’t buy it.

“We are afraid that the number of dead and killed is much higher than what the government said. Yesterday the photo of the body of monk floating in a river has been going around. Everyone is wondering how many monks and young people have been killed and dumped in the forests and rivers. The abduction, beating and killing of monks have been really badly received by the people, who are deeply religious. Everyone is cursing this junta.”

In addition to the violent repression, the government is trying to restore its image following criticism from the international community.

“In various cities the junta is planning pro-government demonstrations. Army trucks are going into rural villages, picking up people against their will. But refusing means a 1,500 kyats fine. People are so poor they must go. Yesterday the UN envoy was taken to Lashio in the north to see this type of demonstration. State-controlled TV is running scene of people supporting the junta. In fact they are shouting slogans against the dictatorship and in favour of Aung San Suu Kyi. The government is preparing a huge rally of some 300-350,000 people.”

How will things go on from now? “We do not put much trust in the United Nations. UN envoys come and go, but everything stays the same. Last year Ibrahim Gambari visited the country and our neighbours; he met Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta made promised that it did not keep. In fact it added a year to Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest. If the international community really wants to do something for Myanmar, not just spout words, it should tell China to act. Only China can do something to solve the Burma question. Put pressure on China; boycott the Olympics.”

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