08/09/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR - ASIA
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Asia recalls the repression of 8-8-'88 in Myanmar

by Melani Manel Perera
In Myanmar, thousands of soldiers in the streets and in front of the Buddhist monasteries, out of fear of a population weakened by decades of repression and hunger. Protests in Bangkok and Manila. The solidarity of Colombo.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - An uneasy calm in the Myanmar's principal cities yesterday, the anniversary of the massacre carried out by the military junta on August 8, 1988. But large demonstrations of solidarity for the victims and the Burmese population have taken place in various other countries.

In Yangon, hundreds of soldiers patrolled the streets the entire day, while others were waiting on trucks ready to intervene wherever necessary. The Buddhist monasteries, the linchpin of the pro-democracy protests that exploded in 2007, were also under tight control. Outside the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest for years, there were more guards and vehicles than usual.

The massive military presence is the only sign of the anniversary of the harsh repression against the protests unleashed by the students, which killed more than 3,000 people and marked the beginning of an even more oppressive dictatorship. There have been no commemorations, because of fear of violence on the part of the military, because almost all of the democratic leaders are imprisoned or in exile, and because the country is fighting for its survival after cyclone Nargis killed at least 130,000 people in May and destroyed the economy of entire areas.

But there were numerous protests in other countries. In Bangkok, activists demonstrated in front of the Chinese embassy, accusing the country of supporting the military regime. About 100 demonstrators also gathered in front of the Burmese embassy, shouting "freedom for Burma, freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi", and launching red paper airplanes reading "We will never forget. We will never give up. 1988".

In Manila, about 50 people demonstrated in front of the Chinese consulate.

In Colombo, the group "Friends of the Third World" organized a silent protest: more than 50 people, including many Buddhist monks, remained for more than an hour in front of the Burmese embassy in silence, displaying placards calling for democracy and for the liberation of Suu Kyi, reading: "We will never forget, we will never give up".

The Burmese Buddhist monk Sobhan Thero expressed thanks for the demonstrations of solidarity, in which many Sri Lanka Catholics participated, saying that this "gives us the strength to fight for democracy in our country".

Jehan Perera, executive director of the human rights group National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, comments to AsiaNews that "the struggle of the Burmese people is also our struggle". "We want to express our full solidarity with them".

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