Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Burmese remember massacre

MICHAEL SERGEL

Nelson's Burmese community will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 8888 Massacre tomorrow. 

 The evening of prayer, song and traditional food will also be open to the public. Organiser Ken Win said the deaths of thousands of people during anti-government protests on August 8, 1988, would never be forgotten. "The military shot down women, children and students standing up for democracy. 

We should not forget, and every year we will commemorate," he said. "We pray for a change in government, we demand an end to the current war, and we demand democracy." Gabrielle Humphreys, Nelson area manager of Red Cross Refugee Services, said the event was important for Nelson's large Burmese community. 

 "The commemoration of 8888 is always acknowledged and will always be remembered," she said. Ms Humphreys said many Burmese refugees had to leave families behind, and faced new challenges in Nelson. "It's the newness of everything - the food, the law, the education programmes," she said. "Kids are going to school for the first time, and college kids have often not had consistent education." She credited language classes, Red Cross volunteers and a supportive community for making resettlement easier. 

 Mr Win is one of many refugees to have resettled in Nelson since the massacre. He claimed refugee status on the Thailand border to escape government arrest. He said the country had "changed a little, but not much" with recent political reforms. Forced labour and oppression were still part of the political regime, he said.