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  • » 10/16/2007, 00.00


    Boycott Beijing Olympics to free Myanmar

    Piero Gheddo

    Even if it has little hope of any success, the proposal seems to be the only way to push China into action, the only power that can really force the military-socialist junta to listen to its people. The other alternative is silence that in a short space of time will return to enshroud the Burmese drama.

    Rome (AsiaNews) – Friends write to me from Burma: “Help us! It’s a question of life or death!”.  One of them who is well informed writes to me from Yangon: “Economic sanctions against Burma mean nothing, because the regime can still crush the people whenever and however it wants.  It has decimated the only force of opposition the Buddhist monks and it can import and export all that it needs from China: its capital is drawn above all from trade in opium, gas and petrol.  It something is not done on an international level soon that can free us from this slavery then, within a few months everything will go back to the way it was before! For us, the slaves of the times, it seems that the only option is to boycott the Chinese Olympics.  We believe that it is the only threat that can bring China and the Burmese regime to listen to the people and give us freedom which is our right!”.

    Today, news from Myanmar reports that there is still a heavy military presence around the two famous pagodas of Yangon, Shwedagon and Sule. There is also a large number of troops deployed around the Kyaikkasan pagoda in Thingangyun, from which numerous monks were taken and some even killed: 15 trucks are close by the pagoda virtually closing it down, with only the entrance accessible.

    A boycott of the 2008 Chinese Olympics has already been called for, but has yet to take off.  In fact two months after the beginning of the revolt against the military-socialist dictatorship in Burma, the situation has precipitated and shows no signs of improving.  The UN is blocked by China and Russia and the west’s interest in the fate of the Buddhist monks and the Burmese people seems to be petering out, while the military’s heavy handed repression has reached beyond the limits even of the despotic emperors of long ago (in 1878 twenty year old Thibaw had 86 relatives strangled: arrested in Mandalay by the British in 1886 and exiled to India) the British colonizers and the Japanese who invaded Burma in 1942-1945. Throughout its history, the sacred places of Buddhist worship had always been respected.  Today there are reports of assaults on convents and pagodas, ancient Buddhas beheaded for their precious gems, monks slaughtered, thousands arrested: they can be found in remote regions (out of tourist’s sight) working side by side on chain gangs (as I personally witnessed a few years ago).  This is the fate of the Buddhist monks.  It is easy to imagine the fate then of the thousands of lay people who took to the streets in protest, most of them young people!


    For us too in AsiaNews a boycott of the Olympics is the only proposal which can bring about a concrete result in freeing the Burmese population.  Whether it is of any success is not important.   For years now China has been investing billions and billions of dollars in preparing for the Games and its reputation is on the line.  It aims to promote itself as a modern, wealthy, evolved, organised, trustworthy nation.  The threat of people boycotting the historic event is worse for the Chinese authorities than any possible failure or bankruptcy.  Within two to three months the people of Burma will once again be firmly locked under the iron grip of Chinese and Burmese weapons, who knows for how many decades more.  And we will still be here consoling ourselves with torch-lit demonstrations attempting “dialogue” with the Burmese barons and their Chinese protectors.  How can it be possible that China can continue to stamp on and oppress (or help to oppress) human rights in Tibet, Burma, Darfur and elsewhere and still be considered untouchable for economic reasons? How authentic is our protest and pacifist talk against human rights violations? 


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    See also

    08/08/2006 CHINA
    Olympics two years away: human rights ignored as Beijing gears up

    In the Chinese capital, the countdown to the Olympic Games kicks off today. There are many rallies, much propaganda and plenty of accusations of human rights abuses. Some organizations are calling on athletes and Olympic committees to consider a public boycott.

    11/07/2008 CHINA
    World leaders at the Olympic-market
    None of the leaders speak of a boycott. Nicolas Sarkozy’s u-turn is of particular note. The question is not whether to boycott the Games ceremonies, but to involve China in meaningful dialogue on human and religious rights before, during and after the Olympics. So far the West’s preference remains that of exploiting China and it’s economy.

    12/03/2008 CHINA
    Olympic projects built with "the blood" of migrant workers
    Human Rights Watch has interviewed migrant workers who built the "new" Beijing. There emerges a picture of widespread exploitation, without hope of redress. On the protection of migrants, the Chinese government is considered "all talk and no action", and the IOC is called upon to explain what it has done.

    27/02/2008 CHINA
    IOC advisor: the Olympics are an opportunity for respect of human rights
    Even if improvements are not seen yet, there is the conviction that China will do something to improve its image. Meanwhile, the government tells Rice that it is "ready to resume talks" with the U.S. on respect for rights.

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    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha signs decree that gives the military the power to arrest and detain people for up to seven days for 27 crimes. Ostensibly, this is due to the lack of staff in law enforcement agencies. For human rights groups, it is just another attack against civil liberties in the name of national security.

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