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I hate it when something like this is happening and all we can do is watch. Is there anything we could actually do?

Email or phone the Burmese embassy in London to let them know the world is watching ?


Phone : (44-2) 7629 6966, 4486, 7499 8841

Fax : (44-2) 7629 4169

Email : mofa.aung@mptmail.net.mm

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I hate it when something like this is happening and all we can do is watch. Is there anything we could actually do?

Email or phone the Burmese embassy in London to let them know the world is watching ?




Do you think they really care, much of the internal shenanigans they've been at for years says a very loud "No".

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I would like to think that the Myanmar Junta's blocking of internet access was more than simply minimising the hassles of outside "interference" while they continue doing whatever they please, the gathering of "evidence" by outside sources which may come back to bite them at some future time, and a means of mimimising outside "help" and advice/encouragement to protesters as a way of making them feel isolated, but I very much doubt it.


Likewise, I would like to think the UN was something more than a toothless talking shop, that maybe does okay at keeping the peace and patching a country back up once the carnage has subsided, but is a dead loss at preventing the carnage happening, but I've been round the block to many times to buy that one either.

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Interesting Article from Saturdays Herald.


Four years in a Rangoon prison as punishment for his democratic beliefs have not diminished Sau Aung Thant's quiet anger at the recent actions of the military junta in his homeland of Burma. A gruelling diet of beans and rice with stones in it only whetted the 23-year-old student's appetite for change.


"They interfered in everything, and even used to take away the vegetables we grew to sell them," he says. "The sheer injustice of the system has to change."


His voice is indignant, but his face remains perfectly serene and his hands neatly folded as he tells the remarkable story of his escape from Burma and his arrival, just two weeks ago, in Scotland. The Edinburgh student is visiting Forthview Primary School in Pilton, Edinburgh, which is uniquely twinned with Hle Bee school in Mae Sot on the Thai/Burma border, where there are currently 750,000 displaced Burmese. Sau Aung Thant is keen to tell the pupils what life is like under military rule in the 21st century. They are rapt.


When he was the age of the Scottish schoolchildren sitting with him, Sau Aung Thant lived with his relatively well-off parents, elder sister and two younger brothers in Rangoon. "I was lucky, because both my father and grandfather spoke English and I went to private school," he says. "Most people were oppressed by the regime and caught up in the imbalanced relationship between the government and the people, but I was able to concentrate on my education and went to study maths at university in 2001.


"However, like many people my age I was interested in non-violent political acts such as distributing anti-government propaganda and putting up pro-democracy posters, and I was involved in the underground peace movement."


In a society where the average wage is 50p a day, the majority of parents in Burma cannot afford to send their children to school, never mind university, and are sent to work from a very early age. Sau Aung Thant knew he was fortunate in having parents who could just afford to pay for his education. His father is a civil servant who earns only about £20 a month, which means the family are dependent on his mother to support them. She owns a clothing store in Rangoon and trades in rice. Sau Aung Thant says his father doesn't like what the government is doing and has always supported his oldest son's pro-democratic activities. "But my mother is frightened for me," he says.


Sau Aung Thant's parents and one brother now live in Kayan State, where his father has been posted, while his sister and other brother remain in Rangoon.


Sau Aung Thant's promising academic career was cut brutally short when, aged 18 and just a few months into his studies, he was caught putting up anti-government posters. He was sent to labour camp where he had to break the stones that would be used in road construction. It was back-breaking, exhausting work for an 18-year-old, although there were younger boys aged just 15. He refused all offers of financial help from his father because he "wanted to be like everyone else".


On his release he could not return to university. "My dreams were destroyed by the government," he says. "One night in August 2006, when a group of friends were pasting up posters again, the armed soldiers patrolling on their jeeps found us, and we ran away. I was too frightened to go home in case they killed my family. That was the night I left Burma. The police didn't see me, but they arrested two of my friends who were tortured until they told them about me," he says, matter of factly. "I don't blame my friends at all. You have to tell. It is understood."


He fled to Thailand, hidden in a truck owned by his uncle and driven by a friend from the underground movement. It took three days non-stop to reach the Thai border (the equivalent of driving from Edinburgh to Nice). He had no documents and no refugee status because the Thai government will not allow Burmese refugees to register with the UNHCR. He was caught twice, only escaping prison by dint of monetary bribes amounting to £50, paid for by relatives. If he had been arrested he could have been deported. "When that happens, people are either put in prison or simply disappear - and not in a good way," he says. What happened to his friends? "I don't know. I have heard they were sent to prison for three years."


Sau Aung Thant then spent three months in Thailand. "When I was in prison I tried to stop doing political activities, but when I saw what was happening in our society I just couldn't," he explains simply. "For example, the military is always interfering in my family's business. We have to sell our rice to them at a very low price every year but most times they just come and snatch it without paying anything at all. Burma exists on fear, and that fear is all-pervasive."


He is reluctant to explain exactly how he got to the UK in January this year, but says he was sent from London to Birmingham by the NASS (National Asylum Support Services) while his application for refugee status was being processed. While there and in London, his colleagues in the Free Burma Coalition helped him. As a refugee, rather than an asylum seeker, he was able to work, and it was while working as an assistant in a London sports shop that he heard about Murray Forgie, the co-founder of BEST (Burma Educational Scholarship Trust), which has worked with Newbattle Abbey College near Edinburgh to offer Burmese refugees the chance to study.


"I was asked, did I want to study in Scotland?' I said yes. Then I was told I had an interview next morning, so I travelled to Edinburgh, went back to London to work my week's notice on my job, and that was it."


Sau Aung Thant has become only the second Burmese refugee student to be granted the Newbattle Abbey College Social Science Award, a full-time residential course designed specifically for adult learners. Through negotiations with BEST, Newbattle especially welcomes applications from Burmese students who have been granted refugee status. He has just completed his second week there.


Sau Aung Thant says he feels safe and welcome in Scotland. "But I want to go back to my country to help free my people," he says. He is not hopeful of a satisfactory result to the current crisis without action from the international community.


His religious belief remains as steadfast as his political conviction. "As Buddhists, we believe that if you do right you are a good person and if you do wrong you are bad. I firmly believe the military are doing bad things and that they are not good Buddhists," he says, his voice again rising up in anger.


"I believe I am a good person. I want to be the one who does something good for Burma and for all other oppressed countries in the world."




The military is taking away bodies to hide their violence'


The Burmese junta appears to be blocking mobile phone networks and internet access to the outside world. However, people are posting blogs from inside Burma.



A group of more than 50 soldiers and riot police just passed in front of our office. About 2pm I saw a group of protesters - about 30 people - being arrested. - Myat, Rangoon.



The crowds were yelling at the soldiers: "Your task is not to kill us citizens." - Anon, Rangoon.



There were many deaths by gunshots but the military is taking away the bodies so that they can hide their inhumane violence on civilians. - Wai, Rangoon.








A country in turmoil


Burma gained independence from the UK in 1948, when it became known as the Union of Burma. It became the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma in 1974, before reverting to the Union of Burma in 1988. On June 18, 1989, the State Law and Order Restoration Council adopted the name Union of Myanmar. This was recognised by the United Nations, but not by the US or UK governments.



Led by Senior General Than Shwe (pictured), a specialist in psychological warfare, the Burmese junta has dominated government since General Ne Win led a coup in 1962 that toppled the civilian government of U Nu.



Aung San Suu Kyi, the 62-year-old daughter of independence hero Aung San and leader of the opposition National League for Democracy party, has remained under house arrest since 1989. There are rumours that she has been recently taken to a Burmese prison.



Burma was part of the British Empire, and vast fortunes were made there by Scots traders and administrators. One of the most successful Scottish companies at the time was the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company which was part-owned by Paddy Henderson & Sons of Glasgow.



12:09am Saturday 29th September 2007





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