Tag Archives: Burma

Report from our March meeting

22 Mar

238240-rodrigo-mundaca-e1495496664358-1600x800.jpgWater theft? A phrase that seems incredible in the UK, but which is a real and pressing threat in some parts of the world. In an arid region of central Chile, Rodrigo Mundaca is defending community access to water and exposing its illegal extraction by politicians and businesses. He and his colleagues have received death threats, been physically attacked, and taken to court.

To mark World Water Day (22nd March), we sent a message of solidarity to Rodrigo, and wrote to the Chilean Embassy in the UK urging them to use their influence to allow Rodrigo and his organisation, MODATIMO, to be able to continue their human rights work on land, territory and environment issues.

We discussed AI Urgent Action cases in North Africa and in North Korea, and signed letters to the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State Security on behalf of Koo Jeong-hwa, arrested with her four year old son when returned from illegally crossing into China to find work – something considered treasonous in North Korea.

We were updated on the desperate situation of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma). What has been described as a ‘military land grab’ is taking place in the territory from which the Rohingya have fled. AI’s Crisis Response Director, Tirana Hassan, has written ‘What we are seeing in Rhakine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale. New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against the Rohingya’.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Friends’ Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton. At our April meeting Susan Mew of the Minehead Group will be speaking about AI’s Human Rights Defenders BRAVE campaign.  All are welcome!

Report from our April meeting

21 Apr

Burma AppealWe were delighted to discover that Burmese student activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung, who was to have been the subject of our April Monthly Action, had already been released as part of a more general prisoner amnesty.

The National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory earlier this year in Myanmar (Burma) and promised to release all prisoners of conscience as soon as possible.

Phyoe Phyoe Aung’s release sends an encouraging message about the new government’s intentions, and we urge them to keep to their promise and remember they hold that symbolic key to freedom.

Other members gave reports on actions on the Death Penalty, on prisoners such as Moroccan Ali Aaras who has featured in Amnesty’s Stop Torture campaign, and on campaigns planned for later this year.

The Amnesty Schools debate on Human Rights, organised by group member Ben Grant, was held at Taunton School on 14 March. Several teams took part, and the standard of debate was impressively high, with lively and articulate participants.

 Our next meeting will be on 10th May at 8pm in the Quaker Meeting House in Bath Place, Taunton. All are welcome.

Postscript: since our April meeting took place, we heard the great news that the Unity 5 group of journalists imprisoned in Myanmar have been released.

Unity 5 released!

19 Apr

myanmar_smallerWe were delighted to hear that the Unity 5 journalists, for whom we started working in September 2015, were released on 17th April; they were among 83 political prisoners pardoned by Burma’s new President, Htin Kyaw, as part of the celebrations of the Burmese New Year.

Many thanks to everyone who has written letters and/or signed cards on their behalf.

Report from our October meeting

21 Oct

468x283_kenji_matsumoto_japanIn Japan, Matsumoto Kenji could be hanged any day now, and he does not know why. He has been on death row for over 20 years. He was sentenced to death in the early nineties for robberies and murders committed with his brother (who killed himself in detention). Matsumoto has had a mental disability and low IQ from birth, allegedly caused by mercury poisoning. Despite this, he was ruled mentally competent and his sentence confirmed in 2000.

We wrote to the Japanese Minister of Justice asking her to commute Matsumoto’s death sentence, to improve the treatment of death row prisoners and introduce a moratorium on the death penalty. You can send an email to the Japanese authorities asking them not to execute him by clicking here.

We have begun to work on behalf of our new Burmese Prisoners of Conscience, five journalists on the Unity newspaper, sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for ‘disclosing state secrets’ in an article on an alleged secret chemical weapons factory. Unity has been forced to close after the imprisonment of most of its staff; their sentencing has had a chilling, intimidating effect on journalists working in Burma.

We meet at 8pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. All are welcome.

Burma: The Unity 5

4 Oct

xxxx_Unity5_web_01Following the release of peaceful activist Dr Tun Aung earlier this year, our group now has new prisoners of conscience in Burma that we will be campaigning to have released.

Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, Sithu Soe – reporters for the Unity newspaper – and Tint San, its chief executive officer, have been sentenced to seven years imprisonment for “disclosing state secrets” as a result of their legitimate work as journalists, after Unity published an article about an alleged secret chemical weapons factory. They are prisoners of conscience, and their detention demonstrates the continued risks to media workers and restrictions on freedom of expression in Myanmar. The Unity newspaper has been forced to close following the imprisonment of most of its staff; their sentencing has had a chilling, intimidating effect on journalists working in the country.

If you would like to help us by writing letters on their behalf, please email: martin@crich.eclipse.co.uk who will send you our appeal sheet with details of the addresses to write to. Alternatively, visit our Burma page on our website here for all the details you need.

Thank you very much for your support.

Report from our June meeting

15 Jun

The life of a 10-year-old girl, pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, is in danger in Paraguay. Despite the high risk this pregnancy poses, and her mother’s request, Paraguayan authorities have denied her access to a safe abortion. We signed letters to the Attorney General and President of Paraguay pleading for swift action in this distressing case.

We also signed letters to the Japanese authorities for Hakamado Iwao, the Japanese man who, until his provisional release last year, had been on death row for 46 years, living under the constant fear of execution, never knowing from one day to the next whether he was going to be put to death. This adds psychological torture to an already cruel and inhumane punishment. At 79, he now awaits a possible re-trial.

Dr. Tun Aung

Dr. Tun Aung

On a happier note, the Group were delighted to read the letter that Dr Tun Aung (left), our now released Burmese Prisoner of Conscience, had written to Amnesty:

‘When I was arbitrarily arrested and sentenced, Amnesty was the first organization I thought of and I hoped in some way it would work for my release….I started receiving some letters from Amnesty International members. It was the first flicker of light in my dark days…. The extent of the campaign and hundreds of personal letters written to me and my family made me very emotional and humbled.’

Our next meeting is at 8pm on Tuesday 14th July at the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. We look forward to seeing you there.

Report from our February meeting

23 Feb

197010_mansoura_women1200The meeting began with the Taunton Group’s AGM; we decided which of Amnesty’s campaigns we should focus on this year. These include Stop Torture and the Death Penalty, and a focus on country campaigns: a new Burmese prisoner of conscience now that Dr Tun Aung has been released, a new interest in China, and a continuation of our work for the Mansoura Three in Egypt (pictured). We signed letters to the Egyptian authorities on behalf of these three women who were caught up in protests in 2014 and face years behind bars.

This month’s group action took an ironic look at typical Valentine’s Day messages against the background of the ‘My Body, My Rights’ campaign. Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body and sexual life is a basic human right. Yet all over the world, people are persecuted for making these choices – or prevented from doing so at all.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 8pm in the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. Everyone is most welcome to join us.

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