On Sunday I hear with much sadness about the Cyclone that hit the Irrawady Delta in Burma. With each day the news gets worse. Some 22,000 Burmese presumed dead. Sometimes an event happens that in an instant captures the attention of the world, while even larger tragedies go unnoticed for decades. Such is the case in Burma. Back in the mid nineties I was involved in the Free Burma movement on college campuses, specifically at NYU, and helped pass selective purchasing legislation in the NY City Council. Despite the work of thousands of activists like me, the human rights violations and brutal repression of the Burmese at the hands of the Military Junta continues, nearly unabated.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, remains under house arrest.
On Thursday, the US Campaign For Burma launched the “Burma Can’t Wait” Campaign. The campaign uses celebrities in videos released daily for through the end of the month to call attention to the conditions in Burma, and call American’s to action. On Sunday, the New York Times ran a story about the campaign… in the styles section.
It will be very interesting to see the effect of the campaign, especially their use of video and social media and networking sites, and especially in the context of the cyclone.
On Monday, Burma was on the front pages of newspapers all over the world. Not for the human rights violations that have been ongoing for 3 decades, but rather for the Cyclone Nargis which has probably claimed over 22,000 lives. The loss of human life could have been mitigated had the Military Junta warned their people of the storm’s approach.
We should not be surprised by this disregard for human life, the Junta has been using children as soldiers against their own people, pregnant women as human shields, and torturing pro democracy activists for three decades. Millions have been displaced, who knows how many they have killed during their campaign of oppression. And now the world is watching in the wake of this natural (and man contributed) disaster.
At the end of last year we honored Aung San Suu Kyi, by naming one of our servers after her. This was symbolic, and a relatively small and private act. At the same time we have launched Amnesty.org and the Witness Video Hub. These sites, for two organizations that have been at the forefront of shining a light on human rights violations around the world. Yet even these organizations are impotent to change the course of history in Burma without you. Without us. Americans, and people the world over must stand up and demand an end to oppression in Burma and every where else.
Without our voices, nothing will change. Join the US Campaign For Burma, make a donation, and spread the word.