Burmese rights groups have launched a campaign to collect over 800,000
signatures for a petition to the United Nations. The petition calls on
the U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to make releasing political
prisoners in Burma his "personal priority."
Representatives of Burmese rights groups
on Friday told journalists they were aiming to collect 888,888
signatures to petition the United Nations chief.
The number of
signatures is to symbolize August 8, 1988, when hundreds of thousands
of Burmese protested for democracy, only to be violently silenced by
Rights groups say 3,000 people died in the crackdown that followed and hundreds were arrested.
Aung, a Burmese activist and the spokesman for the campaign,
acknowledges U.N. efforts on recent prisoner releases, but says Ban
Ki-moon must work harder.
"It is his duty as head of the United
Nations," said Soe Aung. "The United Nations is to help the people not
only the leaders or the heads of the states. So, if he's not working
hard enough, and then we will have to push, keep pushing them or him."
Burma's military-run government released 29 prisoners following visits this year by the U.N.'s envoys on Burma and human rights.
Soe Aung says national reconciliation in Burma, which the U.N.
supports, is impossible without the release of all political prisoners.
Over 2,000 are now behind bars and rights groups say they are routinely tortured and refused medical care.
Zaw Oo was a youth leader in the National League for Democracy, which
won Burma's 1990 election only to have the military refuse to recognize
the victory. He was arrested and imprisoned for nine years.
we entered into the prison we were severely beaten by wardens, prison
wardens," said Moe Zaw Oo. "Prison wardens lined up both sides and we
have to walk through the line. And, they beat us from both sides."
More than 150 Burmese rights groups are working together on the signature campaign.
hope to reach their target number of signatures by May 24, the date
that National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi should
legally be released from house arrest.
Burma's military-run government routinely extends her detention.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has not been allowed to leave her house for most of the last 18 years.