Thursday, June 18, 2009

Burmese women’s groups pressured to cancel protest

by Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Two Burmese women’s organizations in the Indo-Burmese border town of Moreh were forced to cancel a planned protest rally to be held on Friday after authorities pressured the officer who had issued permission for the rally to cancel the authorization.

The Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organisation (KWHRO) and the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) sought permission from the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Tengnoupal Subdivision of Moreh in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, bordering Burma, to hold a protest rally demanding the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her 64th birthday on June 19.

Though the ADC gave permission, the women’s leaders said they were later persuaded by the ADC to cancel the plan.

“We already received permission on June 16. But this morning we were requested to cancel the plan,” Ngangai Haokip, a presidium board member of WLB told Mizzima.

She said the reasons for the request to cancel the plan were not officially declared, though the ADC had been pressured by his superiors to rescind the permission.

“The ADC was also pressured to ensure that we publish the cancellation of the program in the newspaper,” Ngangai added.

Earlier, the KWHRO, an ethnic Kuki women’s group working to promote the rights of women in Burma, and WLB, an umbrella Burmese women’s organization, planned to march through Moreh in protest against the continued detention of Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the current trial against her.

The program was planned as part of the global action for commemoration of the detained Burmese pro-democracy leader’s 64th birthday, on June 19. On Friday, Burmese activists and supporters across the world are set to hold prayer meetings, protest rallies, solidarity concerts and speeches in honor and solidarity with the Burmese democracy icon.

But Ngangai said the program in Moreh had been rescheduled to a simple and small cake-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion

Pressure from the ADC on the women’s groups to cancel their program came after the Imphal-based online Hueiyen News Service published a critical article on June 17 questioning the authority of the ADC to grant permission to protest to foreign organizations.

The article, entitled “How can an ADC permit foreigners to hold protest rally at Moreh?”, points out that allowing Burmese activists to protest in Moreh could provoke Burma’s military junta and eventually jeopardize diplomatic ties between India and Burma.

“With Moreh, being a town bordering Myanmar [Burma], any activity such as an open protest rally held there aimed at criticizing the ruling junta in Myanmar [Burma] is bound to certainly provoke the junta,” the article argued.

While it is still unknown who pressured the ADC to alter the original ruling, Ngangai speculated, “Now the ADC is worrying for his life and position after having originally given permission.”

Meanwhile, observers in Moreh conjectured pressure by Manipuri militants on the behest of the Burmese military could be behind the reversal of fortunes, as several Manipuri armed groups, including the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), reportedly benefit from close relationships with the Burmese military, even maintaining bases on Burmese soil.

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