Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ithaca Makes Burmese Democracy Day permanent, Hours Before a Death Threat

This is the press release sent around after last week's historic vote by the Ithaca Common Council.

Ithaca is the world’s first city to declare annual Burmese Democracy Day, less than a day before the life of
Burma's incarcerated democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is been threatened by the country's brutal regime.

At its meeting on Wednesday, July 5, 2006 the city of Ithaca's Common Council
made Ithaca the first city in the world to name an annual day in honor of the
Burmese people and their struggle for freedom and democracy against a tyrannical
military regime.

Just a day later word reached Ithaca's celebrating Burmese community that
the brutal military regime in power has threatened the life of Aung San Suu Kyi,
the democratically elected leader who has been held under house arrest for most of the
last 16 years.

The Common Council voted unanimously to make August 8 — the anniversary
of the peaceful 1988 demonstrations for democracy by millions of Burmese
people in which thousands were killed and many more forced into exile
(8-8-88) — Burmese Democracy Day in Ithaca, permanently.

“To all our knowledge, this makes Ithaca the first city on the planet to
give such strong and unwavering support to the oppressed people of
Burma,” said Maura Stephens, a Tioga County resident who has been
working with the Burmese community.

The Burmese of Ithaca hope that their city’s resolution will encourage
other municipalities, states, and national governments to take similar
actions to bring attention to the desperate plight of the Burmese.
Aung San Suu Kyi has never allowed to take her rightful place as president
since her National League for Democracy Party won a popular election by a landslide —
winning 83 percent of the vote — in 1990. The military regime, which lost that
election, simply refused to hand over power.

“It often feels to us that the world has essentially abandoned Burma to
the brutal regime in control,” Stephens said. “Although the United
Nations, the Association of South East Asian Nations, the European
Union, world leaders such as Vaclav Havel and Desmond Tutu — even the
current U.S. administration — have called for the release of Aung San
Suu Kyi and transition to democracy and reconciliation, the military
junta simply does what it wants, with impunity. There have never been

Ithaca, with about 30,000 full-time residents and another 30,000
students at Cornell University and Ithaca College, last year became the
second U.S. city (after San Francisco) to name a special day in honor of
the 60th birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi on June 19.

About a third of the 50 Ithaca-area Burmese exiles attended the Common
Council meeting to witness the historic vote, along with visitors from
as far as Texas. Council member Robin Holtham Korherr introduced the
resolution, which was approved unanimously after favorable commentary
from members Maria Coles, Michelle Courtney Berry, and Daniel Cogan and
from Mayor Carolyn K. Peterson.

Earlier, Stephens pointed out, “Although it may seem like a ‘no-brainer’
to pass a resolution for things as elemental as freedom, justice,
decency, and human rights, this vote has deeper meaning for the Burmese
still in Burma. News will reach them via independent, grass-roots,
unofficial, banned media that people from as far away as Ithaca, New
York, are working on their behalf; that they are not alone.”

That pledge took on all the more urgency when news reached Ithaca via the
news agency BosNewsLife, which on Thursday afternoon that Burma's regime made
an apparent death threat against Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday, warning that
her days "are numbered," and she is "heading for a tragic end" for being guilty
of "betraying the national cause while relying on aliens," including the United States
and the European Union.

"Attempts to translate into reality the 1990 election results are in vain," the military junta
was quoted in its official English-language newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar,
monitored by BosNewsLife from Thailand.

The Burmese community of Ithaca was planning a special day of commemoration,
education, food, and cultural entertainment to be held on Saturday, August 5.
Now they will be even more vigilant in their concern for their beloved leader, the
world's most famous political prisoner.

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