"Democrats Called on Burma Hypocrisy" Chicago, Monday, August 26 Jay Sand firstname.lastname@example.org Hypocrites. That is how Burmese-rights activists who demonstrated in Chicago's Jane Addams park today characterize a Democratic party that says one thing but does the other -- all at the behest of the corporate interests that dominate it. Burmese-rights activists accused the Democratic Party of selling its soul today during a rally near Chicago's Navy Pier where the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs awarded Burmese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with its prestigious Averell Harriman award. Suu Kyi is a Burmese popular leader whose National League for Democracy (NLD) presents formidable opposition to the country's military junta leadership, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The Burmese military government has a brutal history of jailing and flagrantly violating the human rights of its political enemies during its eight year reign. The government imprisoned Suu Kyi for five years after the NLD won the 1990 elections. More recently, on August 21, SLORC arrested eleven members of Suu Kyi's party including Aye Win, a relative and personal assistant of Suu Kyi. While they honor Suu Kyi by trumpeting the Institute's award, the Democratic Party did not support a vote to apply sanctions to the Burmese government. The Chicago-based human rights organization Synapses and the American university-based Free Burma Coalition believe that Congress is reluctant to support sanctions -- sanctions that Suu Kyi herself vehemently supports -- because a cabal of multinational corporations with a hand in Burma would suffer economically. According to Synapes, SLORC is counting on a promised oil pipeline to revitalize its economy and national standing. US-based multinationals such as Texaco and UNOCAL have worked with SLORC to effectively enslave low-wage village laborers in order to build the pipeline and other infrastructure items for foreign business. Wearing traditional Burmese dress, University of Madison graduate student and founder of the Free Burma Coalition, Zarni, bemoaned the fact that many Americans still do not know of the Burmese struggle. Zarni fled Burma in 1988 after SLORC conducted a purge of 3,000 political opponents, some of whom were students like himself. "The Internet has been our best tool," he said, describing the Free Burma movement, though less than a year old, as one of the largest student movements in the nation. Free Burma has chapters on nearly 100 campuses and applies direct boycott and negative-media pressure to multi-national corporations to divest their Burmese interests. Perhaps this tactic has been successful. Over the last year PepsiCo, Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss, Liz Claiborne and Macy's have begun to pull back funds. Zarni believes that the Free Burma movement will continue to grow until American corporations and government officials alike have no choice but to accept their demands. Student activists plan a two day, nationwide hunger strike in October to call attenti on to Burma's plight and will continue to spread via Internet. The Burmese-rights activists realize that they can not count on the Democrats to support Burmese popular self-determination, especially when powerful U.S. corporations find it not in their interest to do so. They demonstrated today to express their disgust with a superficially humanitarian Democratic party that has buckled to corporate interest.
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