Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Who Can Save The Three Boatwomen, And How?

On February 4th, Dr Aung Moe Nyo, an MP for Pwint Phyu and 5 of his National League for Democracy Party members travelled to attend a Buddhist ordination ceremony in Ye Nan Chaung where they encountered intimidation and harassment from the juntas local representatives and police. The NLD group had to stay overnight in Ywa Dan Shay village as no boatmen would agree to take them across the river to the ceremony. It was learned that Kone Saung police chief Sein Win, and assistants Myint Thu and San Wai had been to the jetty earlier to force every boatman to sign an agreement promising not to take NLD members across the river.

The next day a boatwoman and 2 female family members from Ywa Dan Shay, decided to take Dr Aung Moe Nyo and group to Ye Nan Chaung, knowing the authorities could punish them for doing so. On February 6 the three ladies fears were realised when they were detained overnight for interrogation at Salin police station. The ladies were released on the following day only to find that their licence to take passengers across the River Irrawaddy, and their only source of income, had been withdrawn.

By February 10 the local residents and NLD members learnt about the situation of the boatwomen and started public collections to help support the 3 ladies with food and other assistance. However, as soon as the juntas’ representatives found out about the depth of public support for the ladies, they mounted guards outside their house to prevent any delivery of food or any other support.

Ten days later,(February 20th) DVB, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported the situation of the 3 ladies of Ywa Dan Shay, Salin, Magwe. Dr Aung Moe Nyo announced that material help for the ladies is all ready to deliver as early as possible.

These tactics are new, even in the junta’s despicable record. Since the military took over power by force in 1962 they have committed so many crimes – murders, rapes, imprisonment and torture, mostly behind the scenes. Sometimes, such is their absolute contempt for the Burmese people, that these beatings and even shootings, were carried out in broad daylight, in front of witnesses and cameras.

However, deliberately banning the three women from work, then also stopping them receiving any donations from the sympathetic public is one of the boldest non-covert actions the junta has perpetrated, as bold and brazen as the appalling public murder of a foreign journalist in the streets of Rangoon.

It has now been about 20 days since the ladies’ work permit was revoked and they were imprisoned in their own home, with their house under 24 hour surveillance. It is difficult to understand what the so called authorities are trying to achieve by their action.

• Do they think they can endear themselves with the Burmese public by forcing the three boatwomen to slowly starve to death, as a punishment for treating NLD members as normal citizens?

• Do they also think the members of the NLD party will show regret, change their minds and pervert themselves to join the junta instead? Or

• Do they simply want the general public to learn yet another harsh lesson that if they don’t listen solely to the junta and instead try to support the opposition party, NLD , they will also have to suffer?

What ever the reason, it is more important for the general public to think and plan how to support these three poor, honest and courageous ladies who earned their living ferrying passengers across the vast Irrawaddy river, in competition with their male colleagues.

The authorities who are camping outside the ladies’ house must be shamed. If the local residents are in unity and solidarity, in the belief that this is one of the most shameful and embarrassing event that could happen to Burma, they must unite in facing down the local followers of the junta. According to the report, the local NLD party members have collected food and other supporting items for the ladies and are waiting for a chance to deliver them. The public and the monks and nuns, must now support the NLD’s action because this is a very clear ‘make or break’ opportunity for everyone, who wants to test and examine their own humanitarian and moral beliefs. If all of the public do not unite and support the NLD in this most ugly event, and check the junta’s shameless bullying, then they must know that they have just determined their own fate too at the hands of all of the military juntas bullies and murderers.

The public must gather around the home of the ladies to see what the juntas followers are doing, making sure that all their cowardly actions are observed and recorded, in the eyes, ears and in the memories of all the people. They must find out the individual names of the police criminals and junta representatives and persons involved, and spread this information across the Division, to all the Districts, towns and villages. The families of the all the junta and followers across the land must be made to known that their men’s actions are noted as cowardly, shameful and repugnant to all normal human society.

The NLD and general public must also report the way the 3 imprisoned ladies are being treated, to ILO officials in Rangoon, while the exiled Burmese groups must report the event to Human Rights organizations and ILO offices, and anything else they can do to help the event gains increased local and international public awareness.


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