by Wai Moe
January 4, 2008
[Source - Irrawaddy]
A newly formed dissident group in Burma, the Steering Committee of Mass Movement, or SCMM, called Friday for the military government to “speed up political reform in the country” and take a step toward sustainable progress in the interests of the Union of Burma.
The umbrella group also urged the junta to release Burma’s democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, and all other political prisoners, including monks and protesters who were arrested for demonstrating in August and September.
The SCMM issued an open letter to Snr-Gen Than Shwe and other member of the ruling State Peace and Development Council on January 4, the day of the 60th anniversary of Burma’s independence from British rule. The statement called for the release of prisoners by February 12, the country’s union day.
“If we start genuine dialogue one day earlier, the country will benefit by one day; but the country will fail if the talks are delayed,” said the umbrella group in the open letter. “So we are willing to work together with a constructive attitude and approach to meaningful and inclusive dialogue as soon as possible.”
The group is comprised of 12 pro-democracy and professional groups, including the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks, the 88 Generation Students group, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, the Burma Muslim League for Peace, the Burma Lawyers’ Union, the New Generation Journalists Union (Burma), the Organizing Committee of Mass Movement (Mandalay), the Committee of Mass Movement (Rangoon Division), and The Association of Writers and Artists.
Tun Myint Aung, a spokesperson for the 88 Generation Students group, said that the umbrella group issued the open letter because they wanted to end the nightmare that began last September and in times past. For the sake of Burma’s happiness, all Burmese need to be liberated from the long-term crisis in the country, he said from his place in hiding.
“The way to liberation is through meaningful dialogue between the junta and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic leaders,” he added.
Meanwhile, a further crackdown against pro-democracy activists was under way in Burma. Nine people, including physician Aung Moe Nyo and former student activist Ko Ko Maung were arrested this week. On Thursday, the security forces also arrested a monk and two laymen in Rangoon while a house in Rangoon was raided by soldiers hunting for a young student activist, Kyaw Ko Ko.
Rumors of potential mass protests spread through the streets of Rangoon as the security forces prepared by training pro-junta militias in anti-riot methods. On December 25, authorities in Rangoon mobilized members of the pro-government Union Solitary and Development Association and Swan Ah Shin groups, according to reports from inside Burma.
“We heard protests would start in January. It’s a neighborhood rumor,” said a housewife in Rangoon, who spoke to The Irrawaddy by phone on Thursday on condition of anonymity, out of fear for her safety.
“But I don’t know if it will develop into something like last September,” she added. “At that time, people died and nothing came out of it.”
by Wai Moe