Burmese Activists Call For Urgent International Intervention

The Burmese Democracy Movement is calling for urgent international intervention to head-off widespread violence in the country. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA that activists have come to Geneva to urge the U.N. Human Rights Council to mount a Commission of Inquiry into the latest abuses committed by the Burmese military junta.

The Burmese activists are calling for the release of 193 political prisoners. They were arrested between August 19 and September 4 after peaceful demonstrations were held to protest a sudden rise in fuel prices.

Director of the New York based Burma U.N. Service Office, Thaung Htun, says hundreds of Buddhist monks who staged a peaceful march two weeks ago were brutalized and insulted by the military. He says Rangoon has not responded to their demand for a public apology.

Therefore, he says, the Buddhist monks are planning to begin a religious boycott on Tuesday against anyone involved in the crackdown of the peaceful protesters.

"Religious boycott is very similar to excommunication in Christianity," Htun said. "The Buddhist monks are going to refuse any kind of offering from the military, military personnel and their family members...So, they are going to start religious boycott tomorrow and they will also refuse making any kind of religious ceremonies for the military personnel and their families, including the funerals, wedding ceremonies or whatever kind of religious ceremony."

Htun says the situation in the country is very tense and could explode at any time. He says the Burmese people need urgent action from the international community to prevent a bloodbath.

He says he is encouraged to see a policy shift from China, a certain softening of its previous position.

He says China traditionally has protected the Burmese military in the international arena. He notes China is the only country, which supports Burma with arms and military hardware. It also provides financial support to the Burmese military.

But, he says, China now appears to be having some second thoughts.

"China is very much concerned about the possible political instability in Burma. So, they said that going through the democratic process is the only option for the sake of Burma," Htun said. "And, China encouraged the Burmese military to work for the national reconciliation and to go through the democratic process. So, it is an encouraging signal."

The Burmese activists are appealing to the U.N. Human Rights Council to examine Burma's treatment of its citizens during this session. It also is asking the Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the government's crackdown on dissidents.

Htun notes the Special Advisor on Burma to the U.N. Secretary-General, Ibrahim Gambari, is scheduled to go to Burma next month. He says it is vital that Gamberi do what he can to restore national reconciliation and political stability.

He says he also would like the U.N. adviser to urge the military junta to release Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu-kyi from house arrest.