Democrats Called on Burma Hypocrisy

"Democrats Called on Burma Hypocrisy"
Chicago, Monday, August 26
Jay Sand

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. 

This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic National Convention and comm unity struggle in Chicago.
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