'We feel our family, our country is being killed'

Protesters slam Myanmar regime outside embassy in Tel Aviv.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
October 2, 2007 00:23
2 minute read.
'We feel our family, our country is being killed'

Myanmar Junta 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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A few dozen people gathered outside the Embassy of Myanmar (ex-Burma) on the Tel Aviv waterfront Monday morning to protest that country's violent response to anti-regime demonstrations over the past month. "We want to remind the Burmese government and the world what they need to do," said Myat Lin, a 27-year-old Burmese man who has lived in Israel for eight years, a member of the approximately 60-strong Burmese community in the country. "We can't stay quiet anymore. We're not angry," said Lin, a Christian in a predominately Buddhist group, "but we feel our family is being killed, our country." Burma is "one of the most forgotten places in the world," said Amnon Vidan, head of Amnesty International's Israel branch. "International pressure is one of the most effective tools to call on the military regime to stop the violence toward demonstrators and to release prisoners of conscience. We're sending a message that Myanmar must line up with international standards of human rights." Monday's demonstrators were a mix of Israeli peace and human rights activists, Buddhist and Tibetan advocacy organizations and Burmese living in Israel. Mahi Alon, a psychologist who writes about nonviolent struggles and attended the protest, said "the message of the demonstration is that what happens in Burma is not an internal Burmese matter. Every struggle today is an international struggle." Alon echoed the sentiments of many participants in saying the Burmese monks leading the struggle showed "the greatest courage, walking with empty hands against the guns. The brutal repression by the Burmese government is not playing out to its advantage." Adi Dagan of the Coalition of Women for Peace, an umbrella group that includes Women in Black and Machsom Watch among its 10 member organizations, said, "As Israelis, we're standing in front of the Burmese embassy calling on the Israeli government to cut diplomatic relations with one of the cruelest and darkest regimes in the world." Dagan also criticized alleged official Israeli support for Myanmar's ruling regime, a claim repeated by several at the demonstration, saying, "Military supplies from Israel to the military junta in Burma are not surprising. Israel is the fourth-largest supplier of arms in the world, and has developed many weapons to oppress Palestinians. But we're devastated if these have been used to oppress the Burmese." A Foreign Ministry official said of the claims: "They're just not true. Israel hasn't sold weapons to Burma for many, many years now." The official added that relations with Burma were based on a long history of mutual trust that preceded the junta's 1991 takeover. "Our relations are based on many years' friendship after Burma was one of the first countries to recognize Israel in 1948, and one of the few not to cut relations after the Yom Kippur War," the official said. The Embassy of Myanmar had no comment.

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