03/13/2009, 00.00
INDIA – MYANMAR
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Burmese people sacrificed on the altar of economic interests, says Indian priest

by Nirmala Carvalho
Clergyman slams the “silence” of the international community, including India, and their tendency to dismiss human rights as an “internal affair” and do business with the dictatorship. In Myanmar today is Human Rights Day, but democracy “will be reached only on the long run.”
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The silence of the international community with regards to the tragedy unfolding every day in Myanmar is “shameful”. Even India is interested only in “economic and commercial opportunities” and is doing nothing about “human rights”, dismissing the whole thing as “an internal matter” with the result that the military dictatorship is “enjoying all the privileges” whilst the population “continues to suffer”, this according to Father A Cyril, a Jesuit priest from Madurai, southern India, who was born in Myanmar and spent there the first ten years of his life.

The clergyman’s outcry coincides with Human Rights Day in the former Burma. For the occasion activists have launched a campaign to free Aung San Suu Kyi and the other 2,100 political prisoners held in the country’s prisons.

For Father Cyril the campaign is “good sign” and can be used to “reawaken the conscience of the international community”, but it “will not have any effect in Myanmar where the government will continue to play big brother. Anyone who puts his or her name to the signature campaign is in danger of arrest, torture and persecution.”

“In Myanmar the violation of human rights is total. The military junta does not provide a decent education and does not create job opportunities for people. There is no freedom; even religious freedom is heavily restricted. There is no freedom of movement and people are under surveillance, jailed if suspected of anti-government activities, and tortured in the most inhuman ways.”

“Real social and economic development” is an impossibility for the clergyman because the junta is not interested in “truly democratic reform.”

Father Cyril, who visited Myanmar after cyclone Nargis, spent four months in the country working in direct contact with displaced people.

The most extensive damages caused by the tropical cyclone that hit the southern part of the county on 2 May 2008 were in the area of the Irrawaddy Delta. Even now, ten months after the tragedy, the situation there remains critical.

Nargis killed about 140,000 people but affected about 2.4 million Burmese who are still waiting for assistance.

The Jesuit clergyman is upset that the military dictatorship has created “obstacles” to help and shown “unwillingness to accept foreign aid.”

“We tried to help people who lost everything in the cyclone. We tried to give them food, aid, a home, but the government prevented us. But people are still willing to fight to free themselves from an oppressive tyranny.”

The priest is concerned about the “future of the country and its liberation” because if there is democracy “the nation can grow.” Its soil is rich in mineral resources like gold and oil; its forests have precious wood; the land is fertile. But “capable and talented” people cannot express themselves because they have to “struggle to survive”, living “in terror” under the constant threat of “guns and rifles” with many killed.

“People are scared,” said Father Cyril, “but there are still some who are fighting for democracy and freedom. It is a journey that will take a long time and will be reached only on the long run. But Myanmar and its people have all it takes to emerge.”

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