The 78-day actions led by Ithaca College physical plant worker Han Lin and other Burmese freedom fighters beginning on July 19 came to a successful conclusion this Tuesday (October 4) in front of UN Headquarters in New York City. That day also marked the end of a 17-day hunger strike (one day for each year since the 1988 military coup that plunged the country into tyranny and oppression by a brutal military regime).
The actions began with peaceful demonstrations at the White House, the Capitol, 12 embassies, and 5 parks in Washington to call world attention to the plight of the people of Burma and their democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since May 30, 2003, under house arrest.
The activists then walked on a “long march for freedom and democracy” to New York City, stopping along the way at communities in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey before reaching their destination, UN Headquarters, on September 7.
Nine days of peaceful demonstrations at the UN followed, and the hunger strike began in September 18. The group was beset by problems -- the loss of one member’s sack containing her worldly possessions; an engine fire in the van that accompanied them for logistical support; the knocking over by a bicycle of another member, which broke his hip and sent him to the hospital for an indefinite stay (he is still in after four weeks); an accident with the van (nobody was hurt); the collapse and near-death of one of the hunger strikers; and other troubles -- but throughout the actions the entire group remained optimistic that the world community would pay notice.
There was some media attention, but most of it came from European and Asian media outlets. Stories appeared in local New Jersey and Pennsylvania newspapers as the walkers traveled, hosted by local community groups who organized meals and forums at which the activists shared their stories with local people.
Han Lin and his fellow Burmese freedom fighters would like to thank the people of Ithaca College who helped to support them throughout this campaign.
At the concluding ceremonies on Tuesday Han Lin addressed a crowd that included Burmese prime minister-in-exile U Sein Win. “The fight is not finished,” he said, “and we have much left to do. But we have been encouraged by officers of the embassies of several UN Security Council countries. We hope and believe that in this upcoming session of the UNSC the members will put the Burma issue on the table. We hope that they will engage in real, meaningful discussion that will lead to intervention by the international community in Burma.
“My countrypeople have suffered so much for so long. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi must be freed, along with her fellow National League for Democracy leaders and all political prisoners. Only then can we begin a transition to democracy and start down the long road to reconciliation and peace.”
Read more about this remarkable man, our colleague and the father of three IC students, and his fellow Burmese activists, and see photos and reports about this 78-day campaign on the website of the International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma (USA) (click on “English version”).
We are still looking for donations of time and money to help support the continuing work of the group. Contact Maura Stephens at email@example.com or 274-3829 if you would like to help financially or otherwise.