I attended a rally today, held in St Mary’s Catholic Church at South Brisbane, in support of the growing global campaign for human rights, democracy and freedom for the people of Burma. There was a similar rally in Brisbane’s Queen’s Park last Friday which I also spoke at, and another yesterday which I didn’t manage to get to.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the fact that pictures and information about what is happening in Burma at the moment is getting out to the rest of the world is making a big difference in building global support. The courage of the people in Burma in resisting the ongoing oppression and the reign of terror should not be underestimated, and nor should the importance of ensuring access to open, accurate information. The internet is being used not just to provide information about what the people of Burma are being subjected to by the military dictatorship, but to help promote campaigns in support. It is interesting to see Facebook starting to be used for this purpose both in Australia and internationally.
This is a crucial moment, where momentum for change has been created through the courage of the people in Burma in standing up to oppression. That momentum must be maintained whilst the global attention is on Burma. People at community level must keep expressing ongoing solidarity and support for the people of Burma, but we also have to ask our governments to act too. This of course raises the question about what exactly is it that should be done at international level.
I don’t agree with everything Christopher Hitchens writes, but this article he wrote at Slate makes some good points, including asking the crucial question “How long can Southeast Asia bear the shame and misery of the Burmese junta? As long as the embrace of China persists.”
He finishes with what I think has to be put forward as a real option – boycotting the Beijing Olympics.
After cataloguing the crucial support the Chinese government provides not just for the tyrants in Burma, but also their suppression in Tibet, their support for Iran and their arming of the bloodshed in Sudan (something all those refugees who are being smeared by the Australian government are trying to escape), Hitchens notes:
Meanwhile, everybody is getting ready for the lovely time they will have at the Beijing Olympics. If there could be a single demand that would fuse almost all the human rights demands of the contemporary world into one, it would be the call to boycott or cancel this disgusting celebration.