01/05/2011, 00.00
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Military celebrates independence, Burmese want an end to the dictatorship

The ruling junta celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the end of British colonial rule. For most Burmese, liberation day is still to come because the country is still being oppressed. Candles are lit for political prisoners at Shwedagon Pagoda. Aung San Suu Kyi is a source of hope in a future of freedom.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar’s military regime celebrated 63 years of independence yesterday, urging the nation to defend national sovereignty against “aggressive countries”. A military parade was held in the capital Naypyidaw, whilst Senior General Than Shwe issued a statement to the nation. For most people however, liberation day (lut-lat-ye-ne in Burmese) is still far off because the country is still under oppression. However, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, more than the phony elections of last November, and the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s renewed commitment to the struggle have raised hope in a future of freedom.

The former Burma became independent from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948 after a long struggle led by General Aung San, the father of the future pro-democracy leader.

In a message to the nation, the current military strongman Than Shwe warned people against “aggressive countries”, a clear reference to the United States and the Western block, “anxious to gain political control over a geographically strategic country like Myanmar”.

The new Burmese parliament voted in during the phony elections of November is expected to meet for the first time at the end of January to elect a new president. It is not yet clear what role General Than Shwe will play in the new institutional arrangement.

In the meantime, the military is preparing to intercept more that 3,000 GSM and CDMA phones belonging to politicians (including from the ruling party), businessmen, social activists, artists and media personnel.

Commenting on the celebrations, an anonymous source in Yangon told AsiaNews that the government “has never been truly independent” because the “day of liberation coincided with a new oppression”.

Members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) gathered at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda (see video) to pray for the more 2,000 political prisoners held in Burmese prisons. “A beautiful and significant gesture,” said the source.

The NLD also organised a fair on 2-4 January, bringing together many young people. Typical products, photos and books were sold to fund the pro-democracy struggle.

A concert was also held in a public park in the presence of the city’s mayor. A blood donor clinic was also set up, and many young people gave the gift of life. “However, this year games and celebrations were low key,” the source said.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s release after 15 years in prison (out of the last 21 years) has given people “strength and hope”, even though “it will take time before matters change,” the source said.

“Everyone in Myanmar must be aware that they can play a crucial role in the liberation struggle,” the source added. Aung San Suu Kyi “is prudent, flexible yet strong; however, she cannot win the battle alone.” In fact, an exchange she had with an ordinary Burmese best illustrates the situation.

After her release, someone asked her “what you of the NLD will do for the country”. Her answer was “What will you do for your country” since “true democracy is everyone’s duty.” (DS)

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