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In New York: A peaceful and enchanting call for non-violence in Myanmar

Myanmar violence sparks protest in New York
Peaceful activists challenged human rights violations

by Zainab Hasnaih
Issue date: 10/2/07

About 200 red-clad protesters, some sitting silently and some holding signs, demonstrated outside the Myanmar consulate yesterday against the house arrest of a political activist and the forceful actions taken against protesting monks and civilians.

The protest was organized by Amnesty International in response to recent violence by the Myanmar government against those peacefully protesting the dramatically increased oil prices in Myanmar, and to raise awareness about the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is controlled by the military Junta and has been since 1962.

The Associated Press reported that the number of deaths caused by the government crackdown is unknown, with estimates ranging from a dozen to 200.

According to the Washington Post, Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace prize winner, has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest because of her work to bring democracy to Myanmar.

The protest, which seemed small but slowly escalated, included about 20 people sitting on a red carpet and quietly meditating.

Some wore signs on their necks that read “Peace in Burma,” while others held signs that included phrases such as “Stop Killing the Monks” and “The Whole World is Watching.”

Matthew Kennis, a field organizer for Amnesty International in the northeast region of New York City, organized the event in less than a week. He began the event by explaining the protest’s purpose.

“Our basic aim is to make sure the Burmese government knows about our concern to allow peaceful protests and mainly to stop the killing,” he said.

T. Kumar, the advocacy director in Asia for Amnesty International, said the event was important because it raised awareness about human rights issues.

“If there is more anger shown in the international community, we will definitely see an improvement in human rights,” Kumar said.

After standing outside the consulate for 10 minutes holding signs and staring into the blank windows of the building, Kennis started to chant, “Stop the killing now, free political prisoners!” People casually walking by the protest joined in the chant, asking for signs to hold. After a few minutes the crowd began to chant, “Free Aung San Suu Kyi!”

Eileen Crimens, a woman in her late sixties who is visiting the United States on vacation from Spain, took part in the protest to support Kyi.

“I think she is a wonderful, gracious and brave woman. She should be able to pursue her objectives for which she was elected,” Crimens said.

Zainab Hasnaih is a contributing writer
E-mail Zainab Hasniah at:    news AT nyunews DOT com

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