Burmese democracy activists urge Olympics boycott

Feb 15, 2008 (AFP), Burmese democracy activists called Monday on people across the world to boycott televised coverage of this summer’s Olympics in Beijing, in protest at China’s support for the ruling military junta.

The 88 Generation Students group, which includes some of the country’s top pro-democracy leaders, also urged viewers against buying any merchandise linked to the Games.

The Olympics are set to open on August 8, the 20th anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising led by students in Burma.

The military, which has ruled the country since 1962, opened fire on the crowds, killing an estimated 3,000 people.

Leaders of the uprising were handed lengthy prison sentences, but when released they formed the 88 Generation Student group.

The group began new protests in August last year, harnessing public anger at a surprise hike in fuel prices that left many unable to afford even meagre bus fares to work.

Many of the leaders were again arrested, but Buddhist monks took over the protest movement, which swelled into the biggest anti-government uprising since 1988.

In a statement issued by leaders now in hiding, the group called "for citizens around the world to pressure the government of China to withdraw its unilateral support of the Burmese military junta and to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics."

"China is a major trade partner, major arms supplier and major defender of the junta in the international arena," it said.

"The military junta in Burma is still in power to this day, despite strong and continuous resistance by the people of Burma, because of China’s support."

The group said that instead of supporting the regime, China should help to facilitate a national dialogue among the military and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

The military last week announced that it had completed drafting a new constitution that it plans to bring to a referendum in May. The document would bar Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize winner, from running in elections now slated for 2010.

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