Call for Political Defiance Inside Burma

The military dictatorship of Burma has again extended the house arrest of the elected democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However, in anticipation of her 61st birthday on June 19, the Canadian Friends of Burma announced the "Aung San Suu Kyi Birthday Wish Campaign." This project aims to build a mass movement of people in Burma who will engage in daily acts of nonviolent political dissent by writing a birthday wish to "the Lady" on Burmese currency.

The Canadian organizers explained that this tactic is a very low-risk activity for participants. It is an excellent way for people to bypass the military dictatorship's network of media censorship and crackdowns on the free expression of opposition political perspectives. Any effort by the Burmese military dictatorship to stem the movement of these messages of support for Aung San Suu Kyi will require the wide-scale collection and destruction of the defaced currency notes, which will create increased economic pressure on the already fragile Burmese economy.

This campaign will depend on the collaboration of Burmese democracy activists both within Burma and internationally. Mobilization in support of the campaign will take place in a variety of countries but the fruits of the campaign will be realized inside Burma through the daily activity of Burmese people.

The Birthday Wish Campaign will use transnational activist networks and media technologies to publicize the campaign above the heads and under the noses of the Burmese regime. International activists will post messages promoting the campaign on weblogs and chat rooms used by Burmese youth. As well, border activists from Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand will be promoting the campaign within their respective areas of operation.

"Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi!", "Long Live Aung San Suu Kyi !" and "Free Aung San Suu Kyi !"

Small Arms Trade

On June 26- July 7 governments meet in New York in a review conference on the five-year anniversary of the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. That conference culminated in the first global agreement and Program of Action (PoA) on such arms. Progress has been made, but implementation has been uneven. Arms are still being shipped to war zones and dictators. Since 2001, UN investigators have documented numerous violations of arms embargoes on governments and armed groups in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

Member states have agreed to outlaw the unauthorized manufacture, possession, stockpiling, and trade of small arms and light weapons. Yet only about three-quarters of UN member states have laws that criminalize the illicit possession of small arms.

Since 2001, donor states have teamed up with several countries in eastern Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere to destroy surplus stockpiles of small arms and light weapons. These programs rank among today's most important and cost effective aid programs. In the past five years alone, NATO countries have funded the destruction of more than 4.5 million small arms and light weapons.

Effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs are essential to limiting future proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. The World Bank has a multinational program that coordinates DDR programs throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa, the goal of which is to develop programs for up to 350,000 ex-combatants in nine countries. Since the 2001 conference, high-profile DDR programs have been established in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. In Afghanistan, donor governments, such as Japan, helped to pay the $100 million tab for disarming approximately 63,000 former combatants. At least 22 states have provided financial or technical assistance for small arms projects in other countries.

Source: Matt Schroeder and Rachel Stohl, Center for Defense Information.

Controlling Conflict Diamonds

Wars from Sierra Leone to Congo are being financed with diamonds. Experts estimate that 6.5 million people have fled their homes and approximately 3.7 million people have died because of fighting over control of diamond mining areas. International organizations and U.S. legislators finally are taking measures to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would require a series of background checks on exported diamonds to ensure that illegally obtained diamonds are not used to finance wars. The bill is expected to pass the House and Senate this fall.

Source: Center for Defence Information.

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2006

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2006, page 31. Some rights reserved.

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