In a nondescript little corner on the fifth floor of Peninsula Plaza, pictures of the 2007 violent clampdown on Burmese protesters are laid out. A small group of visitors, which include Singaporean activists, examines the exhibits and engages in discussion.
The simple, yet poignant, observation is to mark the United Nation’s 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December – and to remember the military suppression of pro-democracy protesters in Burma last September.
The famous pictures of the uprising led by Burmese monks bring the relevance of the UDHR to sharper focus for those present, especially the Burmese in Singapore.
“Even three years ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as the UDHR,” said Marc Myo, a Burmese who’s studying at the Singapore Management University. “Today marks the 60th anniversary of the recognition that all humans are equal,” he explains. “It has given me enlightenment and motivates me to make human rights real for me.”
Marc was one of those involved in the protests which were held in Singapore during the uprising last year. Today’s event is a marked contrast to the public protests which the Burmese community in Singapore held at the Burma embassy and Orchard Road, where hundreds of Burmese took part in demonstrations over a number of days.
Speaking to The Online Citizen, Marc says he is both sad and happy about the UDHR’s anniversary. “I’m happy that we’ve achieved such a declaration,” he says, “but sad that we’ve not achieved such freedom [for Burma].”
Through such events like the one today, he hopes to remind the Burmese people of their inalienable human rights which are being violated by the military regime in Burma. He will be distributing pamphlets of the 30 Articles of the UDHR to his compatriots to “educate, remind and motivate” them.
Turning to the recent long sentences meted out to student protesters and others in Burma by the military junta, he calls “injustice” and criticizes ASEAN for not doing anything to help. “ASEAN has been conniving with the Burmese generals,” he explains.
When asked about the Singapore government’s recent threat to not renew the visas of several Burmese who had organized and taken part in last year’s protests in Singapore, which includes him, Marc says he is “not scared of the implicit punishment” by the authorities here. While they were not surprised that the Singapore government would take action against them, he is however a “little surprised by the Singapore government’s tactics.”
“Their motives were not publicized,” he says, “until we held our press conference. They want to keep good relations with the military government in Burma.” (See here and here for the story.) The government has since relented and approved the visas but three of Marc’s compatriots were nonetheless told to leave. One of them is now in Cambodia, he tells TOC.
Looking to the future, he feels that though the ‘agitation’ of the Burmese people has somewhat quietened down, this is “a period to consider what to do.” He does not rule out further protests in Singapore if and when the need arises, he says. When asked if he will limit such protests to Speakers’ Corner where the rules now allow foreigners to conduct demonstrations, Marc says it depends on the nature of the protest. “What’re you protesting?” he says. “You must protest within the vicinity of what you are protesting against.”
He explains that they demonstrated in Orchard last year because the ASEAN summit was being held in a location nearby. “Thus it was necessary to protest there.”
For now, his hope is for change in Burma. “[I hope to see] the restoration of sovereignty of the Burmese people from the hands of the generals,” he says, “and the restoration of justice and democracy.”
The exhibition will be held again this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, from 3pm to 9pm.