This month marks the fifteenth anniversary of a milestone in the Burmese people's struggle for democracy. In August 1988, millions of Burmese citizens took to the streets to protest decades of corrupt military rule. Hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were shot by Burmese troops. Many others were brutally beaten and jailed. Burma's generals used the unrest as a pretext for imposing a police state that remains in power to this day.
How does Burma's military junta treat the people of Burma? Children are used as soldiers and porters. In June 2002, the Shan Women's Action Network documented the rape of ethnic minority women by Burmese troops.
The Burmese regime brutally suppresses dissent. More than one thousand four hundred dissidents are in jail. On May 30th, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested after gangs of regime-inspired thugs attacked her motorcade. Many of her democracy movement supporters were killed or injured in the attack. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy party were locked up.
Repression in Burma has brought international condemnation and sanctions. The European Union has embargoed arms sales, suspended aid programs and imposed a travel ban on Burmese leaders and their families. The United States has strengthened its sanctions on Burma. A new law bans the import of Burmese products, freezes the assets of senior Burmese officials, and bans nearly all transfers of money from the U.S. to Burma.
Secretary of State Colin Powell says Aung San Suu Kyi and other Burmese democracy leaders have the support of the American people:
"We join in solidarity with courageous men and women all over the world who strive to advance human rights and democratic values within their own countries and throughout the international community."
President Bush says the Burmese people should know this: "the United States stands with them in their struggle for democracy and freedom."