Feb 4, 2009

Members of the Free Burma Coalition - Philippines (FBC-Phils) held a silent protest in front of the SPDC Myanmar Embassy ar Gervacia Tower, Amorsolo Street, Makati City last September 26, 2008 at exactly 10 am. Donning crimson red sashes, the activists will sit on the pavement and light incense sticks to offer solidarity and support to the people of Burma in commemoration of the first year anniversary of the bloody crackdown against peacefully demonstrating people during the Monk-led Saffron Revolution a year ago. The crackdown has not ended. Arrests, detention and intimidation continue as the SPDC military junta steps up its campaign to silence the dissent of the freedom-loving peoples of Burma. FBC-Philippines demands that the crackdown stops, and calls on the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to pressure the military junta to stop repressing its people and heed the calls for a genuine dialogue.

Activists call for humanitarian aid for cyclone victims in Burma; ask the junta to postpone referendum

PHILIPPINES---Following reports that the military junta of Burma will pursue its National Referendum on May 10 despite the heavy impact of Cyclone Nargis that already claimed thousands of lives and property damages in Burma, activists in the Philippines today held a demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Makati City to demand to the Burmese military government the smooth entry of humanitarian aid and the immediate postponement of the planned May poll.

According to the latest information, more than 10,000 people were killed by the cyclone in the Bogalay town alone in Irrawaddy Delta region. The total death toll as of this writing is at 22,464 people and may rise further with about 41,000 more still missing or feared dead. Up to a million people may be displaced.

While the junta already welcomed international humanitarian aid support, other reports confirmed that there are "certain restrictions" in the entry of aid agencies. Some UN aid workers are reportedly still waiting for visas to enter the country. Supplies have been collected by different aid agencies to send to the disaster struck areas.

People are in desperate need of medicine, food and drinking water. In Rangoon there is no electricity since Friday and hardly any organized aid work is seen on the streets yet. It's reported that people are reportedly angry at the regime for not helping them in this situation. Also, hospitals in major townships are either destroyed or with scant medical supplies.

Reports say that teams of foreign aid workers were trying to assess the damage and aid needs, but their access and movements are restricted by the military. UN disaster experts said it could be days before the extent of the damage is known because of the government's "tight control of communications."

Free Burma Coalition-Philippines (FBC-Phils) commented that it is "improper and untimely" to pursue the referendum considering that the entire country is in mourning. The junta according to the group should instead give more focus on resolving the damages of the cyclone and allow "free movement" of agencies extending international humanitarian aid for the victims in the disaster-struck areas.

Meanwhile the SPDC have announced that the referendum date will be postponed in cyclone hit areas. In seven townships in the Irrawaddy division and 40 townships in Rangoon division the new referendum date will be on May 24, while in all other places people are expected to go to the poll stations on Saturday as scheduled.

"Relief first before referendum. The military regime should learn how to weigh things and prioritize them. The situation in Burma requires expertise of these international agencies, and it is the duty of the junta to provide assistance that would include safety and mobility of aid workers," FBC-Phils spokesperson Egoy Bans said.

It has been reported yesterday that authorities in some towns of Burma have begun its pre-referendum 'Yes' vote collecting from the people. In Kachin State authorities are holding out threats to residents in a village around Mai Ja Yang in the Kachin Independence Organization's (KIO) controlled area to cast the "Yes" vote in the ensuing referendum to approve the constitution on May 10.

Bans added, "While the people are so worried about survival in the midst of this disaster, the junta is "too pre-occupied" thinking on how to pursue its referendum. While millions of people struggle for clean water, food and medicine, we have here a government bullying the citizens to vote YES on May 10. This is downright insensitivity."

To express solidarity with the victims of cyclone, FBC-Phils in front the Burma embassy then launched their "own version of referendum." With Ballot Box bearing the slogan "RELIEF BEFORE REFERENDUM", protesters lined up and wrote on their "ballots" not "yes" or "no" but WATER, FOOD, MEDICINE, SHELTER.

And to further dramatize the plight of the cyclone victims, one protester wrapped his whole body with bandages. He is holding dextrose with printed slogan RELIEF BEFORE REFERENDUM.

"This is to tell the junta the actual needs of the people of Burma. Burma is in emergency situation and the people do not need referendum right now. We hope the regime would now set-aside self-interest for the sake of their own suffering people. The referendum can wait, " Bans concluded.

FBC-Phils actively campaigns for the rejection of Burma's roadmap to democracy saying that the junta remains insincere to effect tangible democratic reforms in the said country.