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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Southeast Asia club organizes Burma vigil

Published: October 12, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

The Southeast Asia Club (SEAC) hosted a vigil at the Peace Circle Friday in honor of the ongoing protest in Myanmar (formerly Burma) against the military regime. Between 15 and 20 students participated in the event.

One of the student leaders in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, who, for security reasons, wished to be known as Aung, spoke, followed by a moment of silence for those who died or are currently protesting in Myanmar.

Aung briefly explained the roots of the Saffron Revolution, the current monk-led protests in Burma.

Aung said that following the suppression of the 1988 uprising, the military government shut down all civil societies in the country, except for the Buddhist monks. He added that the civil societies were replaced by government-sponsored societies, which were used by the government to spy on its citizens and arrest those they deemed a threat to their regime.

The current protests began in August 2007 when the government sharply increased fuel prices. The protest began in Myanmars commercial capital, Yangon, with small groups of students. However, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks have joined in the march against the government, escalating to government attempts to subdue the protests with tear gas, arrests and murder.

Aung praised the courage of the monks in Myanmar and compared their effort to the story of a Polish priest during World War II. He retold the story of a priest who watched the Nazis arrest everyone around himincluding politicians, rabbis, women, and childrennever believing that he would be arrested, until one day he was.

The Burmese priests are braver than this Polish priest, Aung said. They dont think they are the religious they strike against the government.

SEAC co-president and Yangon native, who wished to be known as Wai, this issue is close to her heart.

It breaks my heart to read news online, to hear about my people suffering and being oppressed for trying to get a better life and standing up for what they believe in, Wai said.

The SEAC is currently gathering signatures for a petition to be sent to the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an organization that operates on the grassroots-level to bring an end to the military dictatorship in Myanmar.

A SEAC member., who wished to remain anonymous, said she believed that it was important for people to be aware of whats going on in the world and look outside of the 'Brandeis bubble.'

She also added that while most students are not directly affected by the situation in Myanmar, some are, and emphasized the importance of students to recognize that some students families are in danger. Sotomil further claimed that ignorance is not the answer to the problem.

Sotomil said she believed in the necessity for students to discuss the problem amongst one another and simply be informed of the atrocities occurring in our world, stating, awareness is the catalyst for so many big, big things that have changed the world.

Wai stated that she felt extremely delighted and supported to see that people cared about the situation enough to attend the event and raise awareness. She also suggested that students can further raise awareness simply by joining the club, because the more people who join, the more events they can hold.

In conclusion, she desired to send out the message to people to pay attention and know whats
going on in Burma, as it affects a lot of people.

Wai also emphasized the novelty of the extensive media coverage of the situation in Burma, a rarity since the Internet doesnt usually reach the outside world as much.

SEAC will be hosting SEAC Week from October 22nd to the 25th, featuring a speaker, Cocoa Laid, from Washington, D.C. who was a student leader in the 1988 uprising in Burma. The week will feature food and cultural performances, and other events to further raise awareness.