By SAW YAN NAING, The Irrawaddy, 25 Feb 2008

The 88 Generation Students group on Monday called for an international boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, including a boycott of products sold by Olympic sponsors, according to group leaders.

The Rangoon-based activist group released a statement urging international activists to launch campaigns to boycott the Beijing Olympics and to pressure the Chinese government to stop its unqualified support of the Burmese military government.

“In response to China’s bankrolling of the military junta that rules the country with guns and threats, we call for each and every citizen around the world not to watch the Olympic ceremonies on television,” said the statement.

Tun Myint Aung, a member of the 88 Generation Students group, told The Irrawaddy from his hiding place, “We [the Burmese people] lack democracy and human rights. So, to help our struggle for democracy in Burma, we want people around the world to cooperate with us and boycott the Chinese Olympics.”

The group called for a boycott of Olympic merchandise, and products from China and its Olympics sponsors during the time of the Olympic games.

The statement added, “We urge people of conscience throughout the world—including the hundreds of thousands of Burmese in dozens of countries—to pledge to not watch or support in any way the Beijing Olympics.”

The Burmese junta remains in power partly because of China’s support, said the statement.

China is a major trade partner, arms supplier and defender of the junta in the international arena, especially in the United Nations Security Council.

The group called on the Chinese government to pressure the Burmese regime for democratic change by using its influence over the junta.

A Web site located at cites 10 reasons to boycott the Beijing Olympics, including China’s involvement in Darfur and its human rights record.

Beijing, however, has repeatedly denounced efforts to link the Olympics and politics, saying it is playing a positive role and that it is wrong to criticize it for what is happening in other countries.

Recently, well-known film director Steven Spielberg withdrew as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics because of China’s policy over Darfur.

China will open the Beijing Olympics on August 8, 2008, the date of the 20th anniversary of Burma’s 1988 uprising, in which an estimated 3,000 people were killed following the regime’s refusal to honor the results of a democratic election.