6/20/08

Aung San Suu Kyi's 63rd Birthday

Dear friends,

We want to quickly thank everyone who helped out on Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday.

Also, we want to share with you a short but powerful essay written by a woman human rights activist who is "on the run" hiding from the military dictators in Burma. She has been separated from her young daughter now for over 10 months as the military regime is trying to arrest her. This courageous woman risked her life by exposing her conscience in the writing of the essay -- reminding the world that we are working not only to change statistics about human rights, but to help our fellow human beings -- everyday people who share our values and beliefs in liberty and human rights.

Her essay is pasted below. First though, quickly, we wanted to highlight a few things that happened leading up to Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday. Our goal of "celebrating" her birthday is to keep her in the news and at the forefront of discussions in governments, at the United Nations, and everywhere else we can. Burma campaign groups throughout the world worked very hard on this.

A few highlights:

- Because of our work, Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday was reported by over 500 news organizations throughout the world

- Inside Burma, the All Burma Monks Organization issued a call for the leader of the military dictatorship in Burma, Than Shwe, to be taken to the International Criminal Court and tried for committing crimes against humanity

- Also inside Burma, hundreds of protestors led a demonstration calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release -- at least one dozen were arrested and we greatly fear for their well-being

- Our campaign Burma It Can't Wait was profiled on the MySpace celebrity section (http://celebrity.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=celebrity.impact)

- French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a joint call for Aung San Suu Kyi's release. It is very uncommon for French and British leaders to unite on any issue, so we are quite pleased.

- In the United States, we organized over 200 events across the country. At most events, participants "arrested themselves" -- staying at home for 24 hours in solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. During a portion of their "arrest", they invited friends and family over to watch videos on Burma, enjoy Burmese food, and raise money for US Campaign for Burma.

- Many women Nobel Peace Prize recipients (from Kenya, United States, Iran, etc.) issued a joint call for Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

- After pressure from Congress, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke about Aung San Suu Kyi at the UN Security Council

- In the U.S. Congress, over 100 supporters of human rights, members of Congress, and others gathered to issue a joint, public demand for Aung San Suu Kyi's release

- A few weeks ago, Anjelica Huston held a press conference inside the United Nations building calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi -- the first-ever press conference by a entertainment/cultural figure on Burma.

All human rights struggles are long and difficult, but with your support the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people are growing stronger by the day. For example, over the past year, our email list has expanded from under 6,000 supporters to over 50,000.

There is still much work to be done, but we wanted to take a minute to THANK YOU for all of your work, compassion, and dedication.

Many warm thanks,

Jeremy and Jack

==================================
Who Will Save Burma's Women and Children?

By Nilar Thein
Published on June 19, 2008 (The Nation)

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2008/06/19/opinion/opinion_30075891.php

"I woke up from a dream in the middle of the night. I was with my daughter, playing in a small garden.

We were playing hide and seek. I was looking at her from behind a tree. She was so beautiful, with the prettiest smile on her face, looking for me happily. I couldn't hide anymore. I wanted her to find me. I wanted to hold her in my arms and kiss her face gently. I started to show myself to her, but, suddenly I saw three men -with black coats and ugly faces - watching from the shadows near my daughter. I stepped back. I wanted to be found by my daughter, not by them. I still saw my daughter, still looking for me with her innocent smile. I didn't want to hide anymore. I wanted her to find me, but these men would take me away and put me in hell. Then I woke up, with tears on my cheeks.

I have been separated from my daughter for nearly ten months. A midnight knock at our door in August last year changed our lives dramatically. The military junta's security forces took my husband Kyaw Min Yu (also known as Jimmy) on the night of August 21, 2007. He is a leader of the prominent dissident group, the 88 Generation Students, comprising former student leaders and former political prisoners. He and other leaders were taken from their homes that night by the authorities. As a former student activist and a former political prisoner myself, I knew very well how my husband and friends would be treated in the junta's interrogation cells. Therefore, when they came back to arrest me, I went into hiding.

But I must continue to lead the 88 Generation Students with my other colleagues, so that Burma may realise its freedom, and find justice and democracy someday. I must avoid being arrested. However, there are so many difficulties and hardships in moving secretly from one hiding place to another, and I didn't want my daughter to share these hardships. Therefore, I decided to send my three-month-old baby to my parents. Now, I miss her so much.

My mind wanders to University Avenue, where "the Lady", Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has been detained under house arrest for so many years. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, will have to spend her 63rd birthday today alone in detention. She will be missing her two sons, too. Her strength and determination helps me and many women in Burma stand up for justice. I thank her for being with us and leading our movement. She is a great reminder to the world that the military junta that rules our country forcibly separates mothers and children.

Coincidentally, the UN Security Council will hold a debate in New York today on "Women, Peace and Security". This debate is a discussion of UNSC Resolution 1325, which was passed unanimously in October, 2000. Resolution 1325 "Calls on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict." It also "Emphasises the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes including those relating to sexual violence against women and girls, and in this regard, stresses the need to exclude these crimes, where feasible from amnesty provisions."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to chair the debate, with many world leaders discussing the development of women, peace and security. Will they discuss Burma? Will they remember Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the women of Burma who are suffering all forms of abuse by the military junta?

Burma is now in the midst of two conflicts. One is the 50-year-old civil war, raging between the Burmese military and the minority resistance forces, predominately in the eastern part of the country. Burmese troops are raping with impunity tribal women and girls, some as young as eight years old. Burmese soldiers use women in conflict areas as porters to carry their military equipment and supplies during the day, and use them as sex slaves at night. Many women have been brutally killed to erase the evidence of these crimes.

The other conflict is a 20-year old war, waged by the Burmese junta against its own unarmed citizens, who are calling for freedom, justice and democracy. Women activists are beaten, arrested, tortured and then put in prison for many years. Many female activists are mistreated and sexually assaulted by their interrogators and jailers. Children are used as bait by the authorities to get their mothers arrested. Of the 2.5 million people severely affected by Cyclone Nargis - many of whom the military junta simply left to die through starvation and disease - at least a million are women and girls. Recently, a UN expert said that up to 35,000 pregnant women, all cyclone survivors, are at extreme risk of death. However, they will never receive any care from the military.

I hope that Secretary of State Rice and other leaders at the UN Security Council will give consideration to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the women of Burma during their debate. Resolution 1325 is a great development, but implementation and enforcement is still in question. When the government itself is the abuser of human rights and the perpetrator of rape and other forms of gender-based violence, who will protect the victims? Who will end their tragedy? Who will secure the joyful reunion of mothers with their children?

The appeasement policy of some bureaucrats is shameful. Effective and urgent action from the UN Security Council is necessary to help the women in Burma. No more debate. Take action. Please let me be happily reunited with my daughter."

Nilar Thein is a former student leader in the 1988 democracy uprising in Burma and spent more than nine years in prison.

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5/30/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 30: Tila Tequila

5/26/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 26: Joseph Fiennes

5/25/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 25: Michelle Krusiec

5/24/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 24: Kim Kardashian

5/23/08

Hollywood celebrities urge human rights in Myanmar (Burma)

"Stars including Will Ferrell and Jennifer Aniston call for release of the Southeast Asian country's Nobel-winning Aung San Suu Kyi and establishment of democracy there.

By Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 23, 2008


Dozens of Hollywood celebrities have joined together to call attention to the repressive military regime in Myanmar and the plight of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent more than a decade under house arrest.

In more than 30 public-service spots that are being released online daily this month, actors and artists including Will Ferrell, Sarah Silverman, Ellen Page and Sylvester Stallone call for Suu Kyi's release and the establishment of democracy in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

"A human rights crisis is happening right now in the Southeast Asian country of Burma," Ferrell says in the first of the series. "Every now and again a single person or event captures the imagination and inspiration of the world. This moment belongs to Burma and to Aung San Suu Kyi."

Myanmar has been ruled by military regimes for nearly all of the past 46 years. Suu Kyi's political party won a landslide victory in a 1990 election and she was slated to become the country's next leader, but the regime threw out the results and arrested her. Suu Kyi, who will turn 63 next month, is the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Most recently, the reclusive regime has come under harsh international criticism for refusing to accept foreign aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis, which killed at least 78,000 earlier this month and left hundreds of thousands more without adequate food, water or shelter.

The Web-based celebrity campaign, called "Burma: It Can't Wait," began May 1 but has been overshadowed by the cyclone, which struck Myanmar two days later. Organizers hope to raise Myanmar's profile in the same way that activists have put Chinese control of Tibet and the Darfur genocide on the map.

Another goal of the project is to sign up a million new members for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a Washington-based organization that promotes democratic change in Myanmar.

The videos can be found at uscampaignforburma.org.

Some of the spots are sketches that try to draw attention to the troubled nation by injecting humor, such as one featuring Jennifer Aniston and a recalcitrant Woody Harrelson, who refuses to leave his trailer. "I'm not coming out until Burma is free," he shouts.

Others are serious, such as one directed by Anjelica Huston in which comedian Eddie Izzard praises the young people of Myanmar who led protests against the regime last year. "We must use our freedom to help them get theirs," he says.

Huston said in an interview that she took part in the project to highlight the injustices of the regime. "I am particularly drawn to the idea of this small, extraordinarily beautiful country that has been suppressed in this terrible way for so long and the fact that the leader of the democratic party has been shut up under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years," Huston said.

The campaign has attracted such celebrities as director Judd Apatow, Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona, actor Joseph Fiennes, singer Sheryl Crow, action star Steven Seagal, actress Felicity Huffman and producer Norman Lear.

One 90-second video features Iranian artist Davood, who is shown in time-elapsed photography painting a portrait of Suu Kyi. Only at the end does it become clear that she is wearing handcuffs.

In another, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" star Eric Szmanda and alumna Jorja Fox play a card game called "Forced Labor," in which he holds the cards of a Burmese soldier and she is dealt the hand of a civilian, who suffers rape, torture and murder.

"I don't think I like this game," Fox says.

"No one does," Szmanda replies.

Szmanda, who visited refugees along the Thai border and briefly crossed into Myanmar last year, said he was stunned by the heart-wrenching accounts of civilians who escaped the regime.

"Something came over me while I was there. I didn't feel a sense of pity, I felt a sense of urgency," he said. "I had a chance to meet a lot of former political prisoners who are now living on the border of Thailand. It's unbelievable what some of them had to do endure for nine or 10 years."

Actress Rosanna Arquette, who appears in a spot condemning the destruction of 3,200 villages by the regime, said she was moved to participate in the project because of the plight of Suu Kyi.

"She has done so much and she is still a prisoner," Arquette said in an interview. "And the world doesn't really know. There are no Americans there to help. It's really like a creepy secret."

Jack Healey, the former head of Amnesty International who helped raise that group's profile through celebrity concerts, had a key role in organizing the Burma project. He said one of his goals is to give Suu Kyi the kind of profile that Nelson Mandela had while he was imprisoned in South Africa.

"We want her to be the Mandela of her time," he said. "Maybe by the end we will all know who she is."

Fanista, a new "social commerce" shopping website, underwrote and produced many of the spots and offers customers a 10% rebate that they can donate to the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

In his spot, Stallone talks about his fourth "Rambo" movie, which was released earlier this year and casts the Myanmar dictatorship as the villain. The film depicts "atrocity de-mining," in which civilians are forced to walk ahead of the army at gunpoint to uncover hidden land mines. The regime banned the movie.

"While it is flattering to be part of a movie that is giving the Burmese people hope and it is cool to say 'I'm banned in Burma,' these people need real hope," Stallone says in the 80-second spot. "Let's do something we can be proud about."

richard.paddock@latimes .com"

article from Los Angeles Times

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Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 23: Maradonna

5/19/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 19: Steven Seagal

5/16/08

Paranoid Burmese junta steps up security around Suu Kyi

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Friday, 16 May 2008


"It used to be you could ask any taxi driver and they would show you her house.

There could be no stopping and no taking photographs, but they would drive you along Rangoon's University Avenue and you could glimpse the property where Aung San Suu Kyi has spent almost 13 years under house arrest.

Now you cannot even do that. The day after Cyclone Nargis struck, the military authorities ordered that the security around her house be increased. So long a prisoner in her own home, she is now even more isolated from the Burmese people.

Given the devastation wrought by Nargis, one might have assumed the authorities had more pressing priorities. But their decision to block off the house of the leader of Burma's political opposition reveals the junta's concern over the power the 62-year-old woman holds.

After hundreds of monks gathered outside her house during September's pro-democracy demonstrations, the junta is apparently keen to ensure she does not again become a rallying point for people angry and frustrated by the regime's ineffective response to the damage caused by the storm.

Suu Kyi lives with two maids. Her meals are brought in every day – checked by guards outside her house. Foreign diplomats were once permitted to call but that was stopped; her doctor is her only regular visitor. But even those visits, every three weeks, have been halted.

"Whenever they are worried about her influencing the current situation they stop her doctor's visits," said a Western diplomat based in Rangoon. "After last September, her doctor was not allowed to visit until December."

Her unique position is partly the result of an absence of alternative political leaders. Almost all of the organisers of several demonstrations held in Rangoon last summer before the larger protests in September have been jailed. Of the remainder, some have left the country while others are in hiding. Suu Kyi remains the only visible opposition figure.

"Burma's half-million-strong army is terrified of her. She has the love and support of the people. She unites Burma's different political and ethnic groups. This makes her their greatest threat – she unites the people against the regime," said Mark Farmaner, of the Burma Campaign UK.

"The generals are trying to keep her completely isolated from her people and from the world. Her phone line is cut, they intercept all her post. No visitors are allowed. Her sons are not even allowed into the country and she has grandchildren that she has never seen."

Suu Kyi was last detained in May 2003. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Burmese regime, the generals annually renew her imprisonment with a detention order delivered to her house.

"There may be a lot of younger people who do not agree with everything she says," said another Westerner who lives in Rangoon. "But if she was released everybody would rally around her. The regime is paranoid of the West and they are paranoid of her."

The opposition leader reportedly fills her time reading and meditating. It is unclear whether she still has a radio. She used to play the piano in her house but complained many years ago that it had fallen into disrepair."

from: The Independent

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Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 16: Mana

5/15/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 15 - Rosanna Arquette

5/14/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 14: Thich Naht Hanh

5/13/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 13 - Judd Apatow

5/12/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 12: Graffiti Wall

5/11/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 11: Jackson Browne

5/10/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 10: Davood

5/9/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 9: Wally Langham

5/8/08

100,000 Dead: Regime Still Blocks Aid, China Complicit

Here's What You Can Do

Dear Friends,

The news is staggering and in many ways unfathomable. Yesterday, Shari Villarosa, the leading US diplomat in Burma said that 100,000 may have died and 95% of the buildings in the affected areas could be wiped out. The death tolls could increase as water born diseases such as cholera are beginning to spread, and in these worst hit areas aid has not to arrive.

The Burmese regime's blocking of aid is beyond horrendous. Minimal aid is being allowed in. There are still many people and supplies waiting to go, but the Burmese regime continues to deny access. Yesterday, the French government launched a push in the UN to try and enforce aid delivery, but China blocked the effort. If you haven't already, email UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and urge him to step in. Yesterday, within hours after thousands of our members writing in, Ban Ki-moon did start speaking out about Burma. However, more must happen.

In situations as grave as this, many people cannot sit by and watch.

Here's what you can do

Hold a fundraiser. Many of you are already working on this, and we greatly appreciate it. While the Burmese regime isn't allowing international aid in, you can fundraise. We will then send the money directly to trusted Burmese organizations inside who are working to help the people. You can send checks to us or make online donations.

Get your community involved. Here are some events that are going on around the country. Check out the page on the US Campaign for Burma website about the cyclone, for updated news, other info about the situation, and word about upcoming events. On that page at the bottom you can easily add a comment about what you are doing.

Please let us know what you are planning so we can post it on our site. This is a very difficult time, but we can work together to try and save lives.

New York City
Friday, May 9th
UN Demonstration for Cyclone Victims
Time: 3:00-5:00 pm
Location: Ralph Bunche Park, United Nations. 434d and 1st Ave
http://nyburmaroundtable.googlepages.com
Candle Light Vigil
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Union Square

San Francisco
Friday, May 9th
(4-6pm Protest & Rally; 6-7pm Speakers; 7-8pm Prayers & Vigil)
San Francisco Federal Building/Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Office
450 Golden Gate Avenue (@Larkin), San Francisco, CA
www.badasf.org

Washington DC
Sunday, May 11th
Protest in front of SPDC attache (2300 California Ave)
6:00pm

Prayer Vigil at Burmese Buddhist Temple at 10:00 am

Boston
Saturday, May 10th
Fundraiser 12-4pm
Yoma Restaurant
5 N Beacon St
Allston, MA 02134
http://harvardbam.blogspot.com

Dallas
Saturday May 10th
Prayer Service and fundraiser
Thanksgiving Square
1627 Pacific Ave (between Akard and Bryan), Dallas

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Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 8: Voices

5/7/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 7: Eric Szmanda / Jorja Fox

5/5/08

Burma: It Can't Wait - Day 5: Julie Benz

5/4/08

Burma: It Can't Wait. Day 4 - Sarah Silverman

5/3/08

Burma: It Can't Wait. Day 3 - Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen

5/2/08

Burma: It Can't Wait. Day 2 - Jennifer Aniston

5/1/08

Will Ferrell for Burma

Will Ferrell Video Kicks Off 30 Day Effort for US Campaign for Burma


Dear US Campaign for Burma Supporters,

We are thrilled to announce that today, a video by actor Will Ferrell is kicking off a 30-day campaign to help the US Campaign for Burma build one million voices of support for human rights and democracy in Burma.

Every day for 30 days you will be able to tune into our website www.uscampaignforburma.org or www.burmaitcantwait.org (or YouTube, Myspace, and many more sites) to watch a new celebrity video about Burma. Instead of watching one single video with limited information, viewers will be able to learn a great deal about the people of Burma's courageous struggle for human rights and democracy. Each video is different -- some are deadly serious while others have a light touch. Most of these are meant to be different than a typical public service announcement -- more like a short movie or skit.

The videos include many of the top actors in Hollywood and others in music, such as Jennifer Aniston, Woody Harrelson, Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Eric Szmanda, Anjelica Huston, Ellen Page, Sheryl Crow, and more. Make sure you come back each day to find out who are all the celebrities helping us.

Since you already know about Burma, can you tell as many people as possible to watch the videos and join our effort? They are a fantastic tool to educate people and spur them to take action.

Every single video closes by encouraging viewers to join the US Campaign for Burma's one-million person effort for Burma.

Why do we want one million people to sign up? Here is why: we are facing a military regime that has locked up the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, brutally cracked down against hundreds of thousands of peaceful monks and civilians, recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world, and destroyed 3,200 ethnic villages -- bordering on genocide. Yet, too few people have taken action to stop these abuses, and not enough have basic knowledge about Burma.

We have seen in history what happens when not enough people take action. Nelson Mandela was locked up in near-obscurity for nearly two decades before millions of people rallied to the cause of freedom for South Africa. We shouldn't wait that long to build a strong effort for Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has called on us to help, saying "Please, use your liberty to promote ours." Just as millions of people -- including celebrities -- came together to help free Nelson Mandela and South Africa in the 1980s -- we are asking for your help now.

Tell your friends about these videos, watch them on one of dozens of sites on the internet, including our website www.uscampaignforburma.org or at www.burmaitcantwait.org. Then, encourage them to sign up to be one of the million. After they sign up, they will receive timely alerts from us asking them to email people in the US Congress or United Nations, host film screenings, and consider organizing events for human rights in Burma. Working together, we can be a powerful force for change.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Supporting human rights does matter, and together we will do our part to help Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma. It can't wait.

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4/30/08

Hitting the Junta

"CELEBRITY ACTIVISM:

Celebs are trying a new tactic to win the freedom of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Can their viral video possibly have an impact?

Kim Kardashian is an unlikely face for the campaign to free Burma. The reality TV star is better know for her sex tape and various other … well, assets. But she's one of more than 30 celebrities—some famous and some infamous—who have teamed up on a series of new video spots that human rights organizations hope will be a call to arms. The goal? To free Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist confined by Burma's military regime to house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

The organizers of "Burma: It Can't Wait," a mashup of human rights experts, Hollywood and the social-shopping Web site Fanista, are calling the campaign a new kind of public service announcement: there's no direct mail, no talking heads. Rather, over the next month they'll tap into the viral power of the Internet to mass-circulate videos from celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Ellen Page—educational vignettes they hope will garner the support of 1 million fans. Fanista, meanwhile, will offer its support by routing a portion of its customers' purchase payments toward the cause. "We really wanted to get into the hearts and minds of a new generation," says Jack Healy, the brain behind the concept and the founder of the Human Rights Action Center.

Viral video is certainly the way to do that. Just ask comedian Sarah Silverman; her satire about "f---ing Matt Damon"—obviously of a much lighter nature—exploded in the blogosphere earlier this year, banking millions of hits on YouTube and becoming an overnight sensation. Her take on Burma is lighthearted as well. In a short video she explains to a friend why she wants to become a doctor there (the country ranks 190th out of 191 in public health care), in between chatter of who got laid the night before. Funny? Of course: it's Sarah Silverman. Mildly trivializing? To anyone in the know, absolutely. But for the Tila Tequilas of the world? Maybe not. "That's the beauty of the Internet," says Dan Adler, the founder of Fanista and a former agent for the Creative Artists Agency in Hollywood. "It allows for the exchange of information to the broadest and widest set of people, to raise awareness among people that might not otherwise know about the issue."

And, of course, the power of celebrity can certainly get people watching. Whether it's Jessica Simpson in Iraq, Scarlett Johansson for Barack Obama or Bono in Africa, stars bring their causes to the public, and, undoubtedly, the public listens. Burma, organizers hope, will be no different. The trailer for the campaign, released exclusively to NEWSWEEK, comes just days after the 61-year-old Suu Kyi, the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest civilian honor the U.S. legislature can bestow. Meanwhile she remains confined. But because of restrictions on the flow of information in Burma—at one point the junta cut all Internet access in the country—little is known about her situation from the ground. The celebs in the video hope that their contribution—however superficial it might seem—will at least draw attention to her plight. "How else can you remind the world, without images, without daily reporting?" asks Maureen Aung-Thwin, a leading Burma expert who is not associated with the project. "This is such an underreported cause and devastating situation," says Sylvester Stallone, who spent six months on the border of Burma while filming "John Rambo" last year. "The celebrity, I hope, will cause the viewer to pause and think."

That sounds good in theory. But beyond that pause, how much can a famous face really help? Nobody would disagree that there's hardly a better way to get the attention of the celebrity-obsessed public than to have the rich, beautiful and famous make a plea for their support. But a 2005 poll by market research firm GMI, which surveyed 20,000 people around the world, found that 79 percent of Americans don't believe a celebrity endorsement has an effect on how valuable they think a product is. "There are people who genuinely do good," says Rachel Weingarten, a New York-based publicist and the head of GTK Marketing group. "But there's a tendency for celebrities to overshadow the cause."

Of course, many would argue that it doesn't matter if the celebs are just in it for the photo op—as long as their appearances spread the word. The many stars of Project (Red) might not be experts on Africa, but their faces have helped sell the campaign's products, which, in turn, have raised millions of dollars for the Geneva-based Global Fund. P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" slogan might have enlisted shameless (and unregistered voters) like Paris Hilton to pose on the red carpet, but it got kids talking about politics. "I always felt that celebrity endorsement can be a turnoff to people," Silverman tells NEWSWEEK. "But I also think that if you're given an opportunity to bring light to something … people would care about if they only knew about it, it's kind of douchey not to." Adds documentary filmmaker Joshua Seftel, "If it's helping people, who cares [if it's genuine]?" "





from Newsweek International

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4/26/08

Starting May 1st, Major New Voices for Burma: Help Us

Dear friends,

We wanted to inform you about a new, exciting effort we are launching next week. For the first time in history, dozens of leading voices from Hollywood, music, and the arts will be joining together to speak up about human rights and democracy in Burma.

Not since the campaign to release Nelson Mandela from arrest and free South Africa in the 1980s have so many people come together to take action for an imprisoned human rights leader and the people of a country. Mandela was locked up for almost two decades before the people of the world truly rallied to his cause.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been incarcerated now for more than 12 of the past 18 years, and the truth is that most people have no idea who she is. Even fewer know that Burma's military regime has recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world and continues to carry out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against innocent people. Now, all that is about to change.

Every day for 30 days, a video from someone prominent (including Oscar and Emmy winners, comedians, and musicians) will be released. Each video will explain a different aspect of Burma's struggle for human rights.

We are asking you to tune in for 30 days on our website and watch each piece. After you watch each video every day, forward them to your friends, family, and colleagues.

We know that sometimes it is hard to talk to others about Burma; that's why the videos were designed for anyone to watch and be inspired to help. After watching the videos, we are urging people to sign up for the US Campaign for Burma and join the effort to free Burma.

We know that there are more than one million people in the United States and around the world who care about human rights, and we are asking all of them -- even if they are also involved with other issues -- to pitch in and help free Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.

We are building a team of one million people to stand strong for Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma. Stay tuned, everything begins next Thursday, May 1st.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Woodrum and Jack Healey

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4/25/08

Victory: You Made History!

Senate Votes to Award Aung San Suu Kyi Congressional Gold Medal

" Dear Friends,

You did it! After thousands of supporters urged their Senators to support this effort, the US Senate voted unamimously today to award Aung San Suu Kyi the nation's highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. [The US House of Reps. has already voted 400-0]. Aung San Suu Kyi will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

This is a historic vote because Aung San Suu Kyi is the first person in the 232-year history of the award to be granted the honor while imprisoned. And hopefully, with the vast international attention from this award, increased pressure will expedite her release.

By being awarded this honor, Aung San Suu Kyi joins the ranks of many great people in history including George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Elie Wiesel, and Mother Theresa.

The Burmese military generals have tried to isolate Aung San Suu Kyi from her own people and from the international community by keeping her under house arrest for over 12 years. However, the generals, who control around 400,000 soldiers, are losing a battle with a single, unarmed woman. Her only tools are courage and loving kindness, yet she has captured the hearts and loyalty of the people of Burma.

Congress usually only gives one or two awards per year, and sparingly to people in other countries. In the entire history of the award (George Washington was granted the first award), only 30 people from other countries have been granted the award.

In a world in which public heroes are few and far between, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the greatest people of our time; she richly deserves this award, an award we hope will show the people of Burma they are not alone in their struggle.

Many special thanks go to Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY), who conceptualized and launched this effort along with Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL). In the US Senate, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spearheaded, led, and worked very hard to award Aung San Suu Kyi this honor.

Thank you again for supporting the US Campaign for Burma and for all the help in shedding light on Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for human rights and democracy in Burma!"

from US Campaign for Burma

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3/11/08

BURMA: It Can't Wait!




We are excited and proud to say that help for Aung San Suu Kyi, the monks and the people of Burma is on the way!

Jack Healey has partnered with the US Campaign for Burma and Fanista.com to create a revolutionary human rights media advocacy campaign, like never seen before!
Over the course of 30 days, you will be able to…

•learn about the current situation in Burma

•watch innovative and inspiring short films

•help us take a huge step in bringing democracy to Burma


To see the inspiration for this project, check out Jim Carrey and others at: www.youtube.com/user/uscampaignforburma

If you’d like to receive news of our project’s completion, send us your email
and we will send notice! Start telling your friends, families, teachers, even
strangers on the street about this cause and about this campaign!

Our goal is to gain 1 million supporters. Be one! Go to USCampaignforBurma.org to join.

Together we can restore democracy in Burma, free Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Aung San Suu Kyi, and bring a halt to the human rights atrocities that need not
occur.




http://www.humanrightsactioncenter.org/
http://uscampaignforburma.org/

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2/14/08

Burma Democracy Leader Assassinated

"Dear friends,

We [US Campaign for Burma] write with great sadness to tell you of the assassinaton of one of Burma's most prominent leaders. Phado Mahn Sha, a leader of the Karen people, was killed last night while resting at his home. He was 64 years old.


While details are still unclear, it is likely that the assassination was organized by Burma's military regime and/or its cronies.

Many of our [US Campaign for Burma] staff members had met and worked with Mahn Sha in recent years. Aung Din and Jennifer saw him for the last time in January. Jeremy helped arrange for Mahn Sha to brief members of Congress when he traveled to the United States in 2003. He was one of the most principled and courageous people we have ever met, and now he has made the ultimate sacrifice for human rights, democracy, and self-determination.

Mahn Sha was the General Secretary of the Karen National Union, the leaders of the Karen ethnic nationality in Burma. The Karen are one of Burma's largest ethnic nationalities in Burma. In some ways politically similar to the Native Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States, Mahn Sha and the Karen people struggled to hold onto their ancestral homelands under the rule of Burma's brutal military regime.

Seeking to destroy the Karen and other ethnic nationalities' desire for self-determination, Burma's military regime has carried out a war on civilians in eastern Burma, destroying or forcing the abandonment of 3,200 villages in the last ten years. At least 1.5 million people have fled their homes. To put this in the context of a more well-known world crisis, it is estimated that this is twice as many villages as have been destroyed in Darfur.

The attacks on Karen and other ethnic minority civilians in eastern Burma are one of the most under-reported stories in the world. The attacks have been aimed at civilians -- destroying food supplies, rice fields and barns, homes, medical clinics, and schools.

Several consecutive United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council (previously Human Rights Commission) resolutions have called on Burma's military regime to enter into peaceful dialog with the Karen people and Burma's other ethnic minorities, along with the democracy movement led by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. Mahn Sha and the KNU have been strong supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party the National League for Democracy. Like Suu Kyi, the KNU believe that peace, human rights, and equality among all ethnic nationalities will come to Burma through negotations under the auspices of the United Nations.

However, the regime has defied these UN requests, refusing to enter into talks while continuing its attacks on civilians. The regime is able to continue these attacks mainly because of China's protective cloak at the UN Security Council. The Security Council is the only body at the UN that has the authority to force countries to make changes, but because China holds veto power over all Council decisions, it has effectively paralyzed the entire United Nations. As a result of China's veto, the UN is making the same mistakes it made on Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur -- yet again.

We especially respected Mahn Sha because of his compassion toward child soldiers and other Burmese army deserters. Burma's military regime has conscripted more child soldiers than any other country in the world, up to 70,000. Child soldiers and other Burmese army deserters fleeing Burma's regime often sought refuge with the KNU and Mahn Sha provided homes and protection for many of former child soldiers and Burmese army deserters. His political integrity was clearly matched by the size of his heart.

Burma's regime has targeted numerous leaders of Burma's ethnic minorities. Instead of entering negotiations as called for by the UN, Burma's regime is violently attacking ethnic minorities. Three years ago, a leader of the Shan ethnic nationality, Khun Htun Oo, was sentenced to 93 years in prison along with several other Shan leaders. Khun Htun Oo is an elected member of parliament from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, a party aligned with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

We take some solace in the fortitude displayed by Mahn Sha. He was unwavering in his commitment to democracy and self-determination, and inspiring to thousands of people who were lucky enough to have worked with him.

All of us need to do more to bring an end to horrific human rights violations in Burma. Thank you so much for your strong support for our work. Keep an eye on this list in the coming couple of weeks as we launch a new effort aimed at focusing attention on China's propping up of Burma's military regime in the run-up to the Olympics. We will need your help.

Aung Din, Jeremy Woodrum, Jennifer Quigley, and Thelma Young"
================================================

Support 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for freedom and democracy in Burma.
Become a member of the United States Campaign for Burma today.


from US Campaign for Burma

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2/11/08

'Burma's Announced Referendum and Election a Charade'

Dear All,

"We released a press release today condemning Burma's military junta for their announcement to legalize the new constitution. This new constitution is a ploy to formally legalize the military's hold on power. Some may see the military's announcement for a referendum and then elections as progress, but it is actually a gross step backwards.

"The promised vote continues the military regime's process of consolidating its grip on power. It is not a real referendum, it is a charade," said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma.

The announcement by the regime comes one week after the leader of Burma's democracy movement, imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, said that democracy activists should "prepare for the worst." The regime's move also comes four months after a massive crackdown on Buddhist monks, student activists, and members of Aung San Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy.

"How can the regime hold a vote when the entire opposition is locked up behind bars?" added Aung Din, who was imprisoned for four years as a political activist in Burma.

Burma's regime also announced it would hold a multi-party election in 2010 to follow this year's planned referendum. The new constitution would grant supreme power to the commander in chief of the Burmese military, effectively forestalling any progress toward democracy. The underground coalition of Buddhist monks and students that organized nationwide demonstrations in September 2007 have already criticized the plan, calling it an effort to legalize military rule and sideline the legitimately elected leaders of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The NLD won 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma's last election, a landslide victory that the regime has blocked from governing. Human rights activists see the upcoming votes as a way for the regime to erase the NLD's electoral victory while cementing its own grip on power.

The referendum process stands in stark contrast to a call by the United Nations Security Council on October 11th, 2007 for the regime to participate in meaningful negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD and the ethnic representatives. Additionally, 29 consecutive resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly, Commission on Human Rights, and Human Rights Council have called for "tri-partite" talks between the regime, NLD, and Burma's ethnic minorities. Instead of heeding the UN, the regime appears to be taking a one-sided approach and refusing to participate in genuine talks.

Observers expect the military will mobilize the "Union Solidarity and Development Association" and "Swan Arr Shin" to force the people to vote for its constitution. The two organizations have led brutal attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the NLD, and Buddhist monks that have left hundreds of activists dead and thousands imprisoned.

Burma's regime is among the worlds most brutal. The regime has locked up over 2,000 political prisoners including hundreds of students, Buddhist monks, and the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. The regime has also recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, more than any other country in the world, and destroyed 3,200 villages in eastern Burma, forcing 1.5 million people to flee their homes as refugees."

Support 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for freedom and democracy in Burma.
Become a member of the United States Campaign for Burma today.
"

from US Campaign for Burma

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12/20/07

BIDEN Bill to Promote Democracy in Burma Passes Senate

Dear all,

We are very pleased to report that one of our major projects -- ending the US bankrolling of Burma's military regime -- took a major step forwardtoday. We were able to get the US Congress to follow the European Union in banning the import of gems and timber from Burma. This is important because it is the main way the military regime gets money. They simply sell off the country's natural resources to line their own pockets.

Many thanks to everyone who helped with this effort! Aung San Suu Kyi called for people around the world to stop financing Burma's military regime, and we took a huge step forward today. This wouldn't have been possible without the brave people of Burma standing up for themselves and inspiring world leaders to take firm action. It also wouldn't have happened without thousands of supporters across the United States raising their own voices and helping in every possible way.

Jack and Jeremy

=========================
FOR RELEASE: December 19, 2007

CONTACT: Danielle Borrin 202-224-5042

BIDEN Bill to Promote Democracy in Burma Passes Senate

Washington, DC - Today the Senate unanimously passed Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s (D-DE) Burma Democracy Promotion Act, legislation that promotes the restoration of civilian, democratic rule to the troubled state of Burma. Sen. Biden's legislation, originally cosponsored by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA),
passed as an amendment to H.R. 3890, replacing the language in the existing House bill. As a result, the House must revote on the amended bill before it can go to the President for his signature.

"The message to the people of Burma today is clear: the United States stands with you as you seek a peaceful, negotiated transition to democratic civilian rule. We will work tirelessly with the international community toward that objective," said Sen. Biden.

The Burma Democracy Promotion Act imposes new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on the leaders of the junta and their associates. In addition, the legislation tightens the economic sanctions Congress imposed in 2003 by outlawing the importation of Burmese gems and timber to the United States. The bill also creates a new position of Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. The Special Representative will work with Burma's neighbors and other interested countries, including the members of the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to develop a comprehensive approach to the problem, including pressure, dialogue, and support for non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to the Burmese people.

"Our ultimate objective is to re-integrate Burma into the community of nations. Sanctions without concerted diplomacy are pointless," said Sen. Biden. "It is time for Burma to begin a new day in which all of the people, including Burma's many minority groups, work together to rebuild what nearly 20 years of disastrous military rule have destroyed."

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11/16/07

Update on Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi

Dear all,
There is some news from Burma to report which has positive possibilities, though we are cautious. Today the military regime allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to leave her home to meet the leaders of the National League for Democracy, her political party. It was the first time she was able to see her friends since May 2003 after she survived the assassination attempt. That is very good for her personally. She is an incredibly strong woman (needless to say), but still everyone needs human interaction so we are very much pleased for her on a personal level.
The military regime also announced that it is willing to negotiate with her, and she responded by saying she is willing to negotiate with the military regime. Her statement was delivered through the United Nations. After seeing so many of her friends gunned down, her magnanimity and humility is breathtaking.
If the regime follows through on its promises, we should be seeing full-scale negotiations aimed a transition to democracy in the near future. Wow! However, the regime has made many similar statements in the past in order to decrease international pressure, so we are cautious. This is a regime that kills, so of course they tell lies too. Nevertheless, Aung San Suu Kyi believes in peaceful negotiations so she wants to give this a chance to see if it is real.
It is likely that the regime made these promises because of the heat from the UN Security Council. As you know, over the past two years we have led an effort to get the Security Council to require the regime to make changes. Unlike other parts of the UN system, the Security Council is the only body that can require a country a change -- such a requirement carries the full force of international law. We made a major step forward in September when the Council, for the first time in history, called on the regime to enter negotiations, free all political prisoners, and commence a transition to democracy.
The UN Secretary General then dispatched an envoy to travel to Burma to carry this message. He has been in Burma for the past week. If his trip would have been a disaster and the regime would have refused to budge, it was presumed that we could successfully press the Security Council to impose a global arms embargo on Burma in response. That would have made it illegal for all countries in the world to sell weapons to the military regime. However, since the regime promised to enter negotiations it will be easier for China to stop an arms embargo from happening. China can claim that as long as there is progress we shouldn't rock the boat.
So that is probably why the regime made these promises and allowed Suu Kyi to meet her colleagues -- to avoid the arms embargo. The intentions by the regime appear to be bad, although the outcome is good but small. Nevertheless, Suu Kyi wants to see what happens so she will attempt to proceed with the dialog process.
In the meantime, we have reached a tipping point on Burma and have to push forward. We are going to re-double our efforts at the UN Security Council, in the US Congress, and most importantly among people throughout the world. We hope that more and more voices will speak up calling for human rights in Burma and freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi. Our efforts are working, and now is the time to really turn things up.
In human rights work we have to savor the small steps forward, so wherever you are raise a glass to Aung San Suu Kyi tonight.
Jack and Jeremy

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10/6/07

Jim Carrey speaks for Burma at the United Nations

"Good afternoon. Thank you for being here. I’d like to speak to you today about the terrible situation that has developed in Burma. Now if you’re wondering why I call it Burma, instead of Myanmar, it’s because Myanmar was a name given to the country of Burma by a brutal and sadistic regime, that has for decades tried to squash the will of its people through mass relocation, torture, rape and murder, among other inexpressible human rights abuses. So forgive me, but Burma just feels better.

In the last few weeks the world has finally begun to witness the cruelty of general Than Shwe’s military junta. We have seen him turn his firepower on his own people, and his snipers targeting civilians, not with rubber bullets meant to subdue, but with real ammunition and lethal intent. Not even the monks have been exempt from their callous disregard. Those gentle souls, who wouldn’t kill a mosquito if it bit them, have been shot, beaten, imprisoned, driven from their monasteries, and forced to escape into the jungle, or across the border, into Thailand.

I would like to thank First Lady Laura Bush and the President for recognizing and beginning to take action on this issue. I’m glad that there’s something we can agree on, and I hope that Mr. Bush will try to handle this problem with intelligence and sincerity. I do not believe that our military intervention should ever be an option here. I believe the answer is to bring China, India and Russia into alignment with the rest of the world on this issue. Without their influence, the brutality and oppression will go on in Burma indefinitely. And so I would like to appeal to leaders and the good people of those nations to search inside themselves and find compassion for those who are suffering so greatly.

China, in the last decade you have opened your country to new world markets and the possibility of a more amiable relationship with the west. for you, who have been a mystery to us in the west for so long, This is an opportunity to show the world that human rights are one of your priorities, and as the summer games in 08’ approach, that you truly do have an Olympic spirit.

Russia, I have been to Moscow and St. Petersburg. And I have met many beautiful people there. People of strength and character. I have seen first hand that cold weather does not mean coldhearted. And what better chance than this to show it.

And India, your statement encouraging the release Aun San Suu Kyi and the democratic process was welcome, but was not enough. You yourselves were set free by the nonviolent protest of Mahatma Ghandi. I hope you have not drifted so far from his influence that the suffering of women and children are less important to you than the natural gas reserves that lay beneath their feet. What would Ghandi Gi say of your new progress, if it has led you to turn a blind eye to human anguish?

It seems to me that an awful lot of problems these days stem from the fact that nations act more like corporations than companions. We must start putting human lives above the bottom line, and yes, sometimes take the loss. We cannot afford to lock our doors and windows and ignore the desperate pleas of our neighbors because the bully who abuses them has something we want. There is no resource more profitable than compassion. We have the power to bring the bully to reason, without violence, and if we don’t use that power to condemn his outrageous behavior, we are in fact sanctioning it. Sanctioning mass relocation, sanctioning forced labor, sanctioning rape, sanctioning murder, sanctioning the recruiting of child soldiers, and encouraing the heroine trade.

Specifically we are asking for a global arms embargo through the United Nations Security Counsel for all 15 member of the Counsel: China, Russia, and India included to pass a binding resolution banding military shipments to Burma. This is a government that uses its weapons, not in self-defense, but against its own citizens and the time has come for the United Nations Security Counsel to start acting less like a group of corporationsand more like United Nations. Show the more than 200,000 people who are living in refugee camps at the borders of Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India that we believe their lives have value and that they haven't been forgotten.

In closing, I would like to appeal to general Than Shwe and the soldiers themselves. Please, come to your senses. Stop hurting your people. Treat the monks with the reverence they deserve. Begin peaceful negotiations, and return your nation's true leader, Aung San Suu Kyi to her home and her family. There is nothing to defend if you have lost the faith of your people. It is already over. But if you continue on this path, yours will be a legacy of great shame, and history will remember you as yet another example of man’s soul being overwhelmed by ego.

I truly believe that all of us are good, that all of us are one. It is only ego that takes our attention away from the heaven that is right in our midst, by convincing us that we are separate. And all of us, even those who are committing these crimes, deserve better."

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