Past activities in 2003

March 2, 2003 - Annual General Meeting of Burma Watch International held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The annual general meeting of Burma Watch International was held at Robertson-Wesley United Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The meeting was open to friends and members of Burma Watch International and anyone who is interested in promoting human rights and democracy in Burma.

Part of the meeting addressed business items such as reports and elections for the coming year but there were also opportunities to cover broader items related to Burma issues. For example, Cham Toik of the Calgary Mon Cultural Society joined us to discuss the National Reconciliation Program. The minutes of the meeting have the details.

June 2, 2003 - Burma Watch International issued public statement on the current political situation in Burma

Given that recent violent attacks on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party have resulted in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and others being placed in "protective arrest" by the military regime, members of Burma Watch International called on (1) the military regime in Burma to become serious about a peaceful national reconciliation process by taking steps to show it is serious and (2) the Government of Canada to take steps to help resolve the situation in Burma. ... for the complete statement

July 12-13, 2003 - A group of about thirty compatriots from Burma of diverse backgrounds convened in the shadow of Virginia’s Manassas Battlefields of the American Civil War on July 12 and 13, 2003, to reaffirm their support and commitment to the people’s freedom struggle in their ancestral homeland.

They signed The Manassas Call for Worldwide Solidarity for a Democratic Burma. Than Aung, Vice-President of Burma Watch International, participated at Manassas and is one of the signatories of the Manassas Call.

August 8, 2003 - Commemoration of 1988 massacre held, once again, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

As democracy faces another set back in Burma with the arrest and imprisonment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the NLD, Burma Watch International organized and held an assembly in remembrance of the massacre of pro-democracy protestors which occurred on the 8th of August, 1988 in Burma (Myanmar).

The theme for this commemorative assembly was "Democracy and Freedom for All the People of Burma Through Hope, Work and Unity". The theme was inspired by the words of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her video-taped message to high school students taking part in the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Program. She had video taped her message shortly before her most recent detention. The event began with a showing of the video tape.

The Honourable David Kilgour, Secretary of State (Asia Pacific) and MP for Edmonton Southeast, addressed the assembly. He spoke on A Strengthened Resolve to Bringing Democracy to Burma. In his remarks, Mr. Kilgour remembered the fallen freedom-fighters, honored the Mahadevi of Yawnghwe (one of the founding members of Burma Watch International), reviewed the responses of the Canadian government since 8-8-88 (and in particular the government's response since May 30 2003) and commented about democracy in Burma's future.

The current crackdown on the democracy movement began with the ambush of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters on May 30 of this year. As yet the United States is the only country to have enacted sanctions against the military dictatorship of Burma in response; Canada and other countries, while voicing strong condemnation, have been reluctant to take similar measures. Mr. Kilgour was asked why the Canadian government had not taken action under the 1992 Special Economic Measures Act to restrict the dealings of Canadian companies, like Ivanhoe Mines, with the military junta in Burma. Mr. Kilgour's answers helped clarify the Canadian government's stance on the current situation. In turn Mr. Kilgour asked those assembled whether they wanted the Canadian government to apply the Special Economic Measures Act to restrict Ivanhoe Mines' activities in Burma. The unanimous response was "yes" -- a message that Mr. Kilgour said he would take back to cabinet.

In the video taped message that began the assembly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi calls upon youth who live in freedom to work for democracy in Burma. Refugees from Burma, who have survived the regime's repression spoke to the assembly about their experience and called upon the Canadian government and its citizens to react, with the intent that unity, hope and work will lead to freedom for the people of Burma.

The assembly culminated with a meditative call for action led by Prem Kalia, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Mahatma Gandhi Canadian Foundation for World Peace.

The event, sponsored by Burma Watch International took place on Friday, August 8 at noon in the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada).

September 02, 2003 - Burma Watch International issues the following statement regarding Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's hunger strike:

1. We, members of Burma Watch International, have learned that Burma's pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is on a hunger strike to protest her illegal detention by the Burmese military regime. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an outstanding as well as selfless leader of the National League for Democracy party and proponent of non-violent political change. She has placed herself at risk on many occasions in pursuit of democracy and respect for basic human rights in Burma.

2. We are deeply concerned for her safety and well-being. The Burmese authorities have full responsibility for her health, having placed her in so-called "protective custody" since a May 30 premeditated attack on her convoy. We consider the May 30th premeditated attack as an attempt to assassinate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders-- an action that we view as being an insult to democratic forces all over the world.

3. We strongly condemn the speech made by self-appointed Prime Minister Khin Nyunt on August 30, 2003. We completely reject his plan to reconvene the National Convention adjourned in 1996 and drafting of a new Constitution for adoption through National Referendum. We firmly believe that the one and only genuine desire of the people of Burma is to honor the results of 1990 general elections.

Therefore, Burma Watch International is calling on the military regime in Burma to:

   [1] Release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders and supporters immediately and unconditionally.

   [2] Release all political prisoners who have been unjustly imprisoned.

   [3] Honor the results of 1990 General Elections.

Burma Watch International is also calling on the Government of Canada to:

   [1] Impose full sanctions on investment in Burma

   [2] Suspend all ongoing and planned aid programs to Burma

   [3] Actively work with the international community to immediately find a multi-lateral solution to resolve the situation in Burma.

Please write to your local MP and to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew, to urge the Canadian government to act immediately to help resolve the desperate situation in Burma.

Write, fax, or email your comments to Pierre Pettigrew at:
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa ON
K1A 0A6
Phone: 613-995-8872
Fax: 613-995-9926

September 18, 2003 - Burma Watch International helps launch Democracy and Freedom Campaign for Burma.

On the 15th Anniversary of notorious military coup d'etat in Burma which occurred on the 18th September 1988, members of the Canadian Activist Networks Groups [of which Burma Watch International is a member] and friends of Burma launched a letter campaign for freedom and democracy for all the people of Burma.

The first letter in the campaign is addressed to Kofi Annan (Secretary General of the United Nations). It was written by Shareef Korah (Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma) on behalf of 51 organizations and individuals.

The letter calls for immediate international attention to the severe political and humanitarian crisis that Burma is presently in the midst of. It contains an urgent appeal to take strong actions to resolve the crisis in Burma, including economic sanctions imposed by a coalition of nations from around the world. It implores Kofi Annan to consider the following three recommendations:

1. To urge the SPDC to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally.

2. To call upon the military junta to honour the results of 1990 general elections.

3. To bring Burma's grave crisis to the attention of the United Nations Security Council in order to immediately assert UN political intervention.

For the full text of the letter ...

November 8, 2003 - Burma Watch International hosts social gathering for Burmese community in Edmonton, AB, Canada

Our community of people in Edmonton from Burma is growing larger as we are joined by newcomers to Canada and also by newcomers to Edmonton moving from other parts of Canada. It was time that we all met socially in order to get to know each other, to share our experiences and to strengthen our community.

There is also a community of people in Edmonton - not from Burma - who are interested in Burma and its social, cultural and political situation and who are generous in their support of people from Burma.

Our objectives in hosting this social, apolitical gathering were:

  1. To build a stronger community through the development of friendships among the Burmese community and between the Burmese and non-Burmese communities.
  2. To find ways and means to help each other by discovering the needs of newcomers.
  3. To interact with one another with respect and loving kindness by identifying what we share in common.

Activities at the gathering, held at the International Students Center on the University of Alberta campus, included:

  • Welcome speech: by the President of Burma Watch International
  • Video presentation: a short (5 min) video featuring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
  • High tea: tea, coffee, and soft drinks were provided and guests brought snacks to share with other guests.

Date last changed: 2007 September 26

Burma Watch International, 533 Buchanan Road NW, Edmonton, AB CANADA T6R 2B7
telephone: (780) 439-7555       email: