On Thursday September 9th in London’s West End, The Burma Campaign UK (TBC) is co-ordinating the Burma Freedom Ride 9.9.99. Similar events are being held across Europe, the United States and Asia as part of an international effort to focus attention on the serious deterioration of the political and human rights situation in Burma. In a new video-statement smuggled out of Burma for TBC, pro-democracy leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi says:
“Burma itself is like a huge prison with the military dictatorship holding the keys and locking us away from freedom. We would like to call on all of you to help us open the door of our prison … Economic sanctions are good and necessary for the fast democratisation of Burma. We would like the European Community, the United States and the rest of the world to be aware that sanctions do help the movement for democracy in Burma and …unilateral sanctions are better than no sanctions at all.”
9.9.99 is a numerically significant date in Burma and pro-democracy activists say they feel they “have an appointment “ with this day. They have initiated what is being called the ‘Four Nines’ campaign – mirroring the democratic uprising of 8.8.88 – and are calling for a mass uprising against 37 years of military dictatorship. The regime has said the call is an “exercise in futility” and pro-democracy groups report that hundreds of people – some as young as 14 – have already been arrested for taking part in 9.9.99 related protests.
Yvette Mahon, a Director of The Burma Campaign UK says; “9.9.99 may represent the lighting of a fuse in Burma. How long that fuse will be no-one can be sure. The dictatorship has already cracked down on pro-democracy activists this week and any further protest is likely to be met with violence. If the UK Government really supports Aung San Suu Kyi it must now give her the unilateral financial sanctions she has called for.”
Burma Freedom Ride 9.9.99
Between 12-2pm on 9.9.99 an open-top bus will head-up a cavalcade of decorated vehicles which will circle a central London route covering Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket. The carnival-style event will celebrate the principles for which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) stands; ‘peace, freedom, democracy’. The bus will carry two giant images of Aung San Suu Kyi with the question “Why are 400,000 men so afraid of one woman?” and will be decorated with Burma Freedom Ride 9.9.99 helium balloons and flags bearing the fighting peacock – the symbol of Burma’s democracy movement. All other vehicles will carry the same message. The actress Maureen Lipman will be riding with members of London’s Burmese community on the Freedom bus.
There will be a demonstration outside the Burmese Embassy, 19a Charles Street from 2-4pm
following the Freedom Ride.
For more information contact:
Yvette Mahon or John Jackson on 0171 281 7377.
Press and photographers:
Photographers and journalists should meet the bus before the start of its journey – 11.30am Victoria Embankment (opposite Embankment tube).
Notes for Editors:
• The Burma Campaign UK (TBC) has a new VHS video of Aung San Suu Kyi (embargoed for 9.9.99) talking about September 9 and about the urgent need for economic sanctions. A written statement sent to TBC by Aung San Suu Kyi is also available which focuses on the need for unilateral financial sanctions and the deterioration of the political and human rights situation.
• TBC has recently launched a judicial review against the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, over the Government’s attitude to economic sanctions on Burma. Article 60.2 of the EC Treaty allows member states of the European Union to impose financial sanctions unilaterally for ‘serious political reasons and on grounds of urgency’. The UK Government maintains that Burma does not satisfy these requirements.
• In the last week pro-democracy groups report that up to 500 activists have been detained across Burma including seven Burmese military officers and two soldiers who were arrested on August 27 for circulating pro-democracy posters. Reports suggest that curfews have been imposed around the country. Residents have been warned that a failure to obey the curfew could result in prison sentences of up to 15 years.
• The NLD won a democratic election in Burma in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to form a Government. Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest for six years until 1995 and her movements remain severely restricted. In September 1998 the NLD convened the Committee representing the Peoples Parliament (CRPP). Since that time repression by the military authorities has increased dramatically.
• The regime has been condemned in the strongest terms by the United Nations for its widespread use of
torture and other forms of repression. The International Labour Organisation recently accused it of a crime
against humanity for its systematic use of forced labour of millions of people (including women and
• Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to Thailand and other neighbouring countries, posing a threat to regional stability and peace.
• Burma is one of the world’s largest producers of heroin and Robin Cook has accused the regime of directly benefiting from its trafficking.