88 Students' letter campaign highlights abuses

Apr 8, 2008 (DVB), Letters written to the 88 Generation Students' Open Heart campaign last year reflect the wide-ranging abuses by Burmese authorities and illustrate the need for urgent action, the group said in a report.

The campaign was run by the group last year and encouraged people from all over the country to document abuses of power and human rights violations in order to hold the government to account and expose the situation in Burma to the wider world.

The group originally intended to send all the letters to the ruling State Peace and Development Council, but decided instead to compile a summary report on its findings to protect contributors from retaliation by the authorities.

The report includes 254 sample case studies covering a range of issues including forced labour, land seizures, unlawful detention and religious and racial discrimination.

88 Generation Student leader Ko Soe Htun said the report was based on 2,649 letters in total, 54 percent of which related to health, education, economic and social issues while around another 20 percent were about politics.

"In the letters, we learn about people’s desperate wish for a true dialogue which they believe can bring an answer to the social and political woes our country is suffering and also their true will for the release of political prisoners and national reconciliation," he said.

"Thirteen percent of the letters complained about human right abuses and eight percent were about corruption charges. There were about 95 letters in total complaining about forced labour abuses and 67 other letters on forced seizure of lands."

Soe Htun said the campaign aimed to document abuses by the government in order to educate and inform the authorities and the outside world.

"The main intention of this Open Heart letter campaign is to prevent brutal treatment and human right abuses by the authorities in the future by documenting these individual cases and finding a way to stop this," Soe Htun said.

"It also aims to educate the authorities, who do not recognise their legal or moral responsibility for the abuses done to people, so that we can set them on the right path," he said.

"Also this is to raise awareness in the world of the human rights abuses and political, social and economic woes Burma is facing."

Soe Htun also praised the bravery of those who had contributed to the campaign.

"We are also releasing this report to show our respect for the people of Burma who had the courage to speak out about these abuses of power and human rights violations by the authorities and also about their political, social and economic struggles."

Reporting by Aye Nai

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