A candlelit peace walk was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Tuesday 27 September to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the violent suppression of peaceful monk-led protests in Burma, known as the Saffron Revolution.
More than 100 supporters marched through the streets to demand real change inside Burma. The demonstrators held candles to commemorate those lost in the popular uprising.
The saffron revolution met a bloody end in late September 2007 when the Burmese military government ordered a crackdown on the protesters. With more than 100 people killed and thousands arrested the casualties were high. And although Burma is now ruled by a nominally civilian government, four years later many are still in jail.
Ashin Issariya, a Buddhist monk who led protests in 2007 said without release of the imprisoned monks the government cannot demonstrate real change
“in our country there are over 200 monks still in jail, they were never released. So we want to tell about that to all countries and people. Our country’s military regime is telling the world; “now we are going the democratic way”. This is only talk, they never change.”
In countries like Thailand, where many Burmese live in exile, people commemorate this anniversary for those inside Burma who do not have the freedom to do so. Earlier in the week Burmese police blocked a rare protest by pro-democracy activists in Rangoon.
Around 200 people had planned to gather in Rangoon city Hall for the anniversary of the revolution crackdown. But tight security meant they were prevented from forming the rally.
However, on the same day that people around the world were calling for real change from the new government, the Burmese foreign minister was calling on the UN to lift sanctions in the face of reform in the country.
Burma’s current government assumed power in March this year and since has made some changes that have been positively received.
But activists and democracy supporters say that the so-called reforms are just a way of placating international pressure and more sincere steps are needed. Khin Omar, one of the organisers of the Chiang Mai Peacewalk said that the reforms the government has made are not enough.
“lately there have been some moves that the new regime has made in the post election time, such as meeting with leader of the democracy movement Aung San Suu Kyi, but these are just words not actions they haven’t done anything demonstrative to meet the needs of the people”
Burma still holds almost 2000 political prisoners in jails around the country, many of whom were imprisoned for taking part in the protests four years ago. And for those marching in the rally this week, as long as the prisoners remain there, no claims of positive reform are likely to be accepted.