Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Planning for Speaker Panel Event

*Upcoming in early 2008: Panel Discussion with leading academic experts and diplomats about what the international community can do to support Burma
-US State Department Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
-UN Human Rights Rapporteur to Burma (Myanmar) Sergio Pinheiro
-Amnesty International Asia Director T. Kumar

*in collaboration with Harvard Law School Burma Campaign and Amnesty International

Holiday Fundraiser to Support Education in Burma

Why Supporting Educaiton Programs is Important

Due to decades of neglect, under-funding, suppression of academic freedom, and periodic school closings, the educational system in Burma is rapidly deteriorating. A UNICEF survey conducted in 1995 found that 39% of school age children have never attended primary school while 26% of the parents said they could not afford the cost of schooling.[1] For students who are able to attend school, the poverty of the education system is compounded by the lack of facilities, assess to information, and unqualified and underpaid teachers. Knowledge and especially critical thinking is perceived as dangerous to the military regime, the State Peace and Development Council. Crucial for Burma’s transition to an open, democratic society is to overcome the challenges of building up the education system and laying the groundwork to foster civil society. The training program for volunteer teachers aims to both promote civil society networks as well as encourage critical thinking courses in monastic schools.

In the beginning of March 2006, five student volunteers from U Mya Kyaing English School (U Tun Lin Chan Street, Hledan Township) and I developed and taught an ESL course for 200 students in Aung Za Bu Monastery. A detailed chronicle of our activities can be found at:
http://www.brightprism.com/ & http://www.amazingschool.textamerica.com/
Established on April 22, 1990, Aung Za Bu Monastery School strives to support orphans, children of broken homes, and children from families too poor to attend school. Most families in the villages surrounding the monastery are subsistence farmers who earn less than $1 a day. Because of their poverty and isolation, few villagers have the opportunity to further their education in high school or university. To give the next generation of students the opportunity to improve their lives, Aung Za Bu Monastery School provides education free of charge to students in kindergarten through 8th standard. The monastery school also provides free textbooks, pencils, and stationary to over 700 boys and girls who come from more than 10 different surrounding villages in Kormou.
Of the 700 local students, 200 students from the 7th, 8th, and 9th standards are taking supplementary ESL classes provided by the student volunteers from U Mya Kyaing School. The ESL program is held from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday and is successfully continuing since its inception in March, 2006.
The mission of the school is to:
Give free education and provide the children with a solid foundation for the rest of lives
Cultivate the children’s courage, morality, and self confidence
Support those who have been abandoned and show them how they can follow their dreams
Muslims, Christians, Hindus--students of all religions and ethnicities study at Aung Za Bu because the school provides secular education that matches the public school curriculum.
Because Aung Za Bu relies soley charitable donations for its programs, your help is essential to ensuring that these children can continue to learn. By supporting education, you change a child's life and provide the foundation so that children can change their society. Your donations would go to the Endowment Fund that would allow Aung Za Bu Monastery to become self sustainable. For each $400 we raise, we can buy 1 acre of land. The land will be used to cultivate bamboo, a fast growing plant which can be used for food, shelter, and furniture. Your one-time donation will go to the purchasing of bamboo fields that provide a continuous source of revenue for the school. For more information about the Endowment Fund and the daily expenses of the monastery, please visit the Donation page: (http://www.brightprism.com)
[1] http://www.angelfire.com/al/homepageas/edu.html

Tell Congressmen to Freeze the Assests of the Burmese Military Junta

What the Act Does:
The regime makes hundreds of millions of dollars each year off thesale of gems. More than 90 percent of the world's rubies andfine-quality (Imperial) jade comes from Burma. The new sanctions willcrack down on the regime's practice of avoiding U.S. sanctions bylaundering gemstones through third countries before they are sold.
This Act also freezes the assets of Burmese political and militaryleaders, prevents Burma from using U.S. financial institutions viathird countries to launder the funds of those leaders or theirimmediate families, and prohibits Burmese officials involved in theviolent suppression of protesters from receiving visas to the UnitedStates.
"This legislation will turn off a huge cash spigot for the thuggishBurmese regime," Lantos said. "If my colleagues come together and actquickly to pass these new sanctions, we can put an end to huge profitsfor the junta and its unscrupulous middle-men. We must ensure that thesale of some of the Earth's most beautiful natural resources does notcontinue to enable the horrors inflicted upon the people of Burma."
Burma also uses third countries to access the U.S. banking system.These overseas banks process accounts in and through the United Statesfor Burma's rulers, providing the regime with much-needed hardcurrency. The regime uses these funds to purchase weapons and luxurygoods, while the bulk of Burma's population lives in poverty.
Lantos' legislation tightens existing sanctions to prevent Burma'smilitary rulers from profiting from sales to the United States, andblocks access to the U.S. financial system not just for Burmese humanrights violators but also to those who provide the regime with bankingservices.
The Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2007,if passed, would be the strongest action yet that the U.S. takes topressure Burma's military regime to negotiate with Burma's democracyleaders and ethnic nationalities.
What to do:
As constituents, it is only your voice that will inspire yourrepresentative to co-sponsor this bill, better enabling it to pass inCongress. If you do not know, to find out whom your individualrepresentative is go to www.house.gov and type in your zipcode in the"Find your representative" box in the top left corner of the screen.
Once you know whom your representative is - use the list below tocontact your representative's Foreign Affairs staffer (the numbers foreach one for every office are at the bottom of this email). If s/he isnot there leave a message and ask her/him to call you back. Call todayand call every day until you get an answer!
Below is a series of talking points that can guide your conversation,as well as the information the staff will need to become a co-sponsorof the Bill.
Talking Points for Staffer:- Tell the staffer you want your representative to co-sponsor theBlock Burmese JADE Act of 2007- Give her/him proof that this policy works. It cuts off hundreds ofmillions of dollars to the regime and will specifically target the topgenerals' finances.- Mention that the military junta still deserves sanctions. On top ofbrutally crushing thousands of peaceful demonstrators, includingmonks, the military regime has destroyed more than 3,000 villages. Ithas forcibly displaced more than half a million people inside Burma aswell as causing a million refugees to flee across the border toneighboring countries and has made no efforts to move towarddemocracy.- Let her/him know it is important to send a strong signal to theregime that the US government will continue to keep American money outthe hands of the junta.- This is not the only action being taken against Burma. On top ofmany diplomatic efforts, the EU has imposed new sanctions, as well asAustralia, and even Japan has decreased aid to Burma.- Finally ask the staffer to call you back when your representativehas co-sponsored the Block Burmese JADE Act. Important: Leave yourphone number!Let him/her know that his/her constituents care about Burma!
To add their name as a cosponsor:Let them know that to co-sponsor they should contact Eric Richardsonat the Committee on Foreign Affairs office ateric.richardson@mail.house.gov or 225-5021.
Check up to see if they cosponsor:It's easy to check and see if they follow through and agree tocosponsor. THOMAS, the Library of Congress' congressional recordsdatabase updates a list of all information on legislation. Click onthis link to find out who has signed as cosponsors.
Thank you all for your vigilance. We must do everything we can tosupport the people of Burma during these uncertain times. If you haveany questions or ideas, feel free to contact me orthelma@uscampaignforburma.org