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Monks Speak at Several Boston Area Universities

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The ABMA Monks spoke last week at several Boston Area colleges and universities during a trip sponsored by Amnesty International Group 133.  They addressed audiences at Harvard University, MIT, UMass-Boston and Brandeis University.

Click here to follow a links to the student newspapers covering the visit: Brandeis University Hoot  and the Justice Independent Student Newspaper.

The Irrawaddy: Many Burmese Monks Arrested

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The Irrawaddy reported today that, “At least 30 monks were arrested in Burma in September and October, the two-year anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, sources said.”

Click here to see the article

The Irrawaddy: 11 Political Activists Sentenced

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The Irrawaddy reported that:

“Eleven political activists, including one Buddhist monk, were sentenced to between five and 10 years on Tuesday at Rangoon Northern District Court in Insein Prison.

The court also passed down a sentence in absentia on two monks, Ashin Pyinnya Jota and Ashin Sandardika, from the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, who have fled abroad.”


Click here to see the article.

ABMA Monks Witness US Senate Hearings on Burma – Broadcast on the PBS NewsHour

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The ABMA Monks attended the US Senate hearings on the new diplomatic outreach efforts to Burma. Their presence was captured at the end of this piece broadcast on the PBS NewsHour program  (click to view the video).

Note that they are seen at 5:20 into the video presentation.

Second Anniversary of the Saffron Revolution in NYC September 23, 2009

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Second Anniversary Celebration

Click on Photo to view Album
Hundreds of supporters of the pro-democracy movement came out to support monks and political activists at today’s rally.

9/23/09 – United Nations General Assembly – Protest Rallies Video

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by Gersing Aung

PBS Frontline Stories and Video of the Saffron Revolution

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For More Information about the ABMA Monks and the Saffron Revolution Click Here for a link to PBS Frontline coverage from September, 2008.

Human Rights Watch Reports on Burma’s Forgotten Prisoners

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The Human Rights Watch organization released a report today on Burma’s Forgotten Prisoners.

The 35-page report showcases dozens of prominent political activists, Buddhist monks, labor activists, journalists, and artists who were arrested since the peaceful political protests in 2007 and sentenced to draconian prison terms after unfair trials. The report was released on September 16, 2009 at a Capitol Hill news conference hosted by Senator Barbara Boxer.

Click Here To See The Report

US Myanmar policy review almost complete: Obama aide

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AFP Wed Sep 16, 12:56 pm ET

Myanmar review almost done:   (Click here to see the story)

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama’s acting point man on Myanmar said Wednesday that a review of US policy was almost complete as he urged the country’s military regime to free some 2,100 political prisoners.

“It is so important that we not forget about these people,” Scot Marciel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, East Asia and Pacific Bureau and Ambassador for ASEAN Affairs said at a major human rights group’s forum on the detainees.

Marciel said the US review of its approach to Myanmar would not “question or reassess” the importance of the military junta freeing the prisoners and edging towards democratic rule but might call for different tactics.

“Our policy all along has been improved human rights situation, release of political prisoners, dialogue, and transition to a democratic government that can better govern that country,” he said.

“The purpose of the review is to look very honestly, candidly, and say ‘we haven’t been able to achieve the goal, are there things we could do differently, more of, less of, that might increase the chances of us achieving that goal?'” he said.

“I expect we’ll have a conclusion soon,” Marciel said as Human Rights Watch unveiled a report spotlighting the fate of what it estimated to be about 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar, which Washington calls Burma.

U Pyinya Zawta, leader of the All-Burma Monks’ Alliance at the center of the 2007 protests against the junta, urged Washington to pursue “high-level engagement” with Myanmar’s military leaders while tightening key sanctions.

“The US government should engage, but the most important thing is keep the sanctions in place” unless the junta takes steps like freeing political prisoners, the monk, who spent 10 years in prison, said through an interpreter.

U Pyinya Zawta urged the United States to call for a global arms embargo on Myanmar and to work with key regional powers like India and China to convince the junta to take steps towards democratic rule and free the prisoners, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“(The) United States even should further tighten the sanctions by asking (the) United Nations Security Council to start investigation into regime crimes against humanity,” said the monk.

Note that this story also appeared in The Washington Post.

Click here to see the article.

Student World Assembly Interview with U Pyinya Zawta

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Student World Assembly Interviews Monk from Burma’s Saffron Revolution
http://www.studentworldassembly.org/SWA/Events.aspx?EventID=440

Natalie Jesionka, founder of the nonprofit organization the Prizm Project, a partner organization of Student World Assembly (SWA) advocating female leadership, recently interviewed U Pyinya Zawta, one of the monks who helped lead the Saffron Revolution in Burma.

Natalie Jesionka is an independent filmmaker and media literacy advocate. She has produced documentaries about human rights issues such as illegal immigration, human trafficking, and gender discrimination throughout the world. Natalie sat down for a taped interview with U Pyinya Zawta, whom she has developed a close relationship with while traveling in Burma. U Pyinya Zawta discussed how the monks were involved in the Saffron Revolution and ways in which students can support the movement for democracy in Burma.

U Pyinya Zawta was instrumental in the anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Burma during the Saffron Revolution.  During the interview Mr. Zawta gave some history of the Saffron Revolution.  He explained that in 2007, a decision by the ruling junta to revoke food and fuel subsidies made price of these necessities rise by as much as 66% – a terrible burden on many already impoverished Burmese people. This action led to protests in the capital city of Yangon, soon blossoming into a mass demonstration in favor of democratic reforms.  Buddhist monks, who are highly respected in Burma’s highly religious society, played leading roles in the massive street protests, sometimes referred to as the “Saffron Revolution,” – a reference to the saffron colored robes worn by Burmese monks. Today, the Burmese people remain firmly under the rule of the State Peace and Development Council –the official name for the cabal of powerful military leaders who exercise absolute power over the country.

In his interview, Mr. Zawta also discussed how students can get involved in the cause for Burma.  He urged students to put pressure on the United Nations to take a firmer line against the Burmese military ruling Junta, and to call for the release of the many imprisoned Burmese student activists. In addition, the monks emphasized that all people should be responsible consumers, paying attention to which businesses they support, being sure not to support businesses that suppress citizens or invest irresponsibly with the Burmese government.

U Pyinya Zawta currently lives in US, where he has political asylum.  He continues to conduct educational sessions and join protests in New York and around the country for those detained and fighting against the military government in Burma. He hopes that one day his country will have an accountable, democratic government.