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"Free Burma" goes to Londonís Parliament Square

By Lim Kooi Fong, The Buddhist Channel, Oct 31, 2007

London, UK -- “The uprising is not finished.  The monks will continue to march. This coming new moon, during Kathina (Buddhist lent,) Burma’s Sangha will rise again.” So said Ko Aung, spoken on the hallowed grounds of Parliament Square in front of Westminster’s Abbey.

<< "Free Burma's" 24 hours vigil in front of Parliament in London. Image by The Buddhist Channel

Gesturing actively while speaking, his words seem to resonate in sync with the maroon hue colored sunset which had engulfed the square's backdrop, bathing London’s famous Big Ben in serene golden shade. It seems nature had contrived to drive home the point Ko Aung, leader of the Burmese expatriates living in the United Kingdom, was making.

He had led a small group of his fellow countrymen in a vigil since September 24 at this city’s famous square to remind the world of his country’s beleaguered state of affairs.

“We will be here, 24 hours a day, until December 24, 2007. We will not stop our vigil until peace, justice and freedom is restored in Burma,” Ko Aung said.

The point that his group is making is not just confined to an open demonstration. A petition has been sent to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on October 22, and a public discussion called the “Burma Debate” was also held on the common floor of Parliament.

Ko Aung seems pleased with the effort made so far.

“The British government has responded strongly against the military regime. There seems to be a will to take strong action,” he said.

However, he did not seem too pleased about the efforts made by the United Nations.
There has been call for the EU and the UN to take stronger sanctions against the regime. However, Ko Aung says the various groups are waiting for UN special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari to present his reports about his effort to engage with the military junta.

“We are waiting for Mr. Gambari’s report. He is said to be trying to establish dialogs between the regime and members of the opposition. If the report is not fruitful, we will have to see what else we need to do,” Ko commented.

Rise of Burmese International Sangha movement

Another recent significant development is the establishment of the Organization of International Burmese Sangha. Formed on Oct 29, 2007 in New York, the movement aims to become a platform to unite Burma’s Sangha.

“The organization was formed in New York as the result of a 7 days conference. Ven. Shin Kaw Wii Tha proposed the setup of the movement and it was unanimously adopted by the participants at the meeting,” Ko Aung said.

Closer to home, Ko Aung said that a mass protest is being mobilized by an inter-faith group, led by monks and an anticipated crowd of 10,000 students.

“This Free Burma march, which will take place on November 22, is geared towards keeping public awareness alive on the Burma situation,” said Ko Aung.

“The saffron revolution is not over. We will not let those who abuse, insult and kill monks off the hook, he adds.

While the military in Rangoon and elsewhere in Burma may seem to have succeeded in their clampdown of the dissident monks, Ko Aung believes that this may just be a temporary reprieve. That he believes the whole anti-junta movement is not defeated showed clearly when he tellingly said, “This coming month - during Kathina - the Buddhist new moon, will be an important one. The Sangha will rise again.”

Just like the marooned wrapped evening sky, Buddhists everywhere else in the world will hope that this coming Kathina will not just be a season of spiritual renewal, but also the rebirth of dignity, basic liberty and common decency for all Burmese people.

Lim Kooi Fong filed this report from London, UK.

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