Asians all over demand to be heard

All over Asia, people are coming together to voice their demands with their Governments. Even in a totalitarian state like Burma where protesters face brutal treatment by the military government, people have found the courage to speak up against the authorities (see below).

Singaporeans will need to find their voice, too.

In a rare display of public opposition, activists marched today to protest the government’s fuel price increases. (European Pressphoto Agency)Steep rise in fuel costs prompts rare public protest in Myanmar
Seth Mydans
The New York Times
24 Aug 07

In a rare public demonstration in Myanmar, hundreds of people marched Wednesday in the country’s largest city to protest steep increases in fuel costs that have driven up the prices of transportation and commodities, according to witnesses and news reports.

The protesters in the commercial capital, Yangon, formerly Rangoon, dispersed after being confronted by a militant youth group organized by the government. Several were taken away in cars, The Associated Press reported.

It was the latest in a series of small demonstrations against inflation, price increases and deteriorating living conditions in a country where public protest has been all but choked off by intimidation and arrests.

The march followed the overnight arrests of 13 dissidents who had led a protest against the price increases, including the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group.

That group is named for an uprising in 1988, set off partly by an increase in the price of rice, that led to the killings of hundreds of people and the emergence of the junta that now rules Myanmar, formerly Burma.

In an unusual public announcement, the government said in state-run newspapers Wednesday that the dissidents had been arrested for “agitation to cause civil unrest” and that they could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Those arrested included Mo Ko Naing, one of the country’s most prominent dissidents, who spent 16 years in prison until his release in November 2004. Since then he has been arrested and released again.

“The government is repeating the same mistakes of 1988,” said Aung Zaw, an exile from Myanmar living in Thailand who edits Irrawaddy Magazine, a political journal focusing largely on Myanmar issues. “No announcement, no prior consultation.”

Prices of gasoline, diesel fuel and cooking gas more than doubled last week, delivering a punishing blow to Myanmar’s population, much of which lives from hand to mouth.

“People cannot go to work, bus fares have been raised, children cannot go to school because their parents cannot afford to pay for their transport,” said Soe Aung, a member of an opposition group based in Thailand who has contact with dissidents in Myanmar.

“There have been in recent months other demonstrations by people who say, ‘Why don’t we have regular electricity, why have the commodity prices gone up high, very high?’ ” he said.

In 1990, the junta held elections that it lost and later annulled. It has detained the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the 17 years since then.

Critics say the junta’s economic mismanagement has turned a nation rich in natural resources into one of the poorest in Asia. Myanmar, which was once a leading exporter of rice, also has some of Asia’s largest reserves of natural gas.

On Wednesday, as in the 1988 protests, demonstrators, who numbered about 300, called on onlookers to join them, witnesses said. According to Reuters, onlookers applauded but did not join the march

%d bloggers like this: