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Marching for the monks

An international day of action on 6 October saw tens of thousands across the world marching in solidarity with the monks and pro-democracy campaigners in Burma. Protesters in Burma had effectively been silenced by the brutal reprisals of the military regime, and had asked for support from outside the country.

Myo Thein, a Burmese refugee who fled in 2003, spoke for many when he said: ‘Our friends and families in Burma cannot take to the streets so today we will do it for them. We may be far away but that does not mean we are powerless – we must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and keep the world’s attention focused on their plight’.

Demonstrations took place in at least 25 locations, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Mongolia, New Zealand/Aotearoa, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, UK and US.

Some of the actions targeted the foreign corporations that invest in Burma, helping to prop up the military junta. These include Petronas in Malaysia, Chevron in the US, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in India and Total Oil in France. Total is Europe’s biggest investor in Burma, earning the regime up to $750 million per year.

The internet has become an important tool for sharing information about what’s going on inside Burma and linking up solidarity actions around the world. Within two weeks of its inception, Facebook’s Support the Monks in Burma group had amassed 370,000 members and it continues to grow. At the same time, an email petition by Avaaz.org collected 700,000 signatures calling on the Chinese premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council to support democracy in Burma.

*Jo Lateu*

New Internationalist issue 406 magazine cover This article is from the November 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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