The campaign, Change for Burma!, has been launched by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Partners Relief and Development UK, exactly a year after the largest pro-democracy protests for twenty years swept through the nation of Burma. The campaign also comes one day before the 20th anniversary of the seizure of power by Burma's current military junta, the latest in a succession of military regimes which have ruled the country since 1962.
Change for Burma! aims to raise public awareness of the brutality of the military regime, which it says is "guilty of every possible human rights violation".
The campaign website has been specially developed so members of the public can email their MP encouraging them to ask the UN Security Council to bring the Burmese Government before the International Criminal Court. The online action also urges the Security Council to impose a universal arms embargo on the country. The campaign will feature additional online activities in the coming months, enabling supporters to lobby the international community to take concrete and effective action.
In a crackdown on thousands of peaceful protestors in September 2007, Buddhist monks and Burmese civilians were beaten, shot, arrested, tortured and killed in front of the world's media. When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in May 2008, the regime initially refused then restricted, obstructed and diverted international aid efforts. At least 140,000 people died as a result of the cyclone, many due to the regime's deliberate neglect.
CSW said that Burma's military has been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against its ethnic nationalities for years, which some argue amounts to attempted genocide. The junta's policies include the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labour, the use of human minesweepers, child soldiers, and the destruction of over 3,200 villages in eastern Burma since 1996. Burma's democracy leader, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest while over 2,000 political prisoners are in prison.
John Bercow MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, has expressed his support for the Change for Burma! campaign in an online interview.
He said, "I believe that it's for Britain, the European Union and the United Nations to make it absolutely clear to the regime that the abuse, the violence, the rape, the incarceration, the torture, the religious discrimination must stop, and it must stop now."
He encourages people to take action by signing up to the campaign through the Change for Burma! website.
"We've got to have a mass popular demonstration of discontent. We've got a personal and collective responsibility to do something".
Benedict Rogers, CSW's Advocacy Officer for South Asia and author of A Land without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of Burma's Karen People, said, "This is an exciting new campaign to mobilise people to use their freedom to promote Burma's freedom. The struggle for human rights in Burma deserves as much attention as South Africa's anti-apartheid movement received, and our aim is to inspire and equip people to rise up and demand real action.
"Every person who has the freedom to do so should put their belief in justice into action. Having visited Burma and its borderlands 23 times, and having seen and heard the suffering of the people firsthand, I believe that we cannot rest until the situation in Burma changes and all its people can live in peace and freedom."
Change for Burma! can be found online at www.changeforburma.org