Swedes turn out to back Burmese

Demonstrations are planned in Stockholm and Gothenburg on Friday in support of protesters in Burma, with some members of the public turning up to work in red to express sympathy for the Burmese monks.

“There has been enormous interest – a lot of people have been getting in touch,” said Gunilla Hjalmarsson of the Swedish Burma Committee.

Representatives from all political parties are expected to attend a demonstration in Stockholm’s Medborgarplatsen at 5pm on Friday.

It is planned for at least one cabinet minister to attend the demo, but it is so far undecided who that will be, according to Évin Khaffaf, press secretary for the governing Moderate Party.

Green Party spokesman Peter Eriksson is one confirmed participant at the rally.

“I think it’s going to be quite a big demonstration,” said Gunilla Hjalmarsson, but added she found it difficult to predict exactly how big the turnout would be.

A protest at 3pm in Gothenburg, currently hosting the annual Book Fair, is also expected to attract a large crowd.

Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, will be attending the Gothenburg rally, as will international development minister Gunilla Carlsson and former foreign minister Jan Eliasson.

People at workplaces across Sweden were on Friday showing support for the Burmese democracy movement. Annika Salomonsson, who works for Stockholm communications consultancy Battison & Partners, said four out of five staff there had worn red to work.

“I also met a former colleague who was wearing red in support of the Burma demonstrations, and I saw quite a few people on the subway wearing red,” she told The Local.

Earlier on Friday, MPs and parliamentary staff from all parties gathered in the Riksdag’s hall to mark their support for the Burmese monks. Most of those who turned up were wearing red, according to Centre Party MP Fredrick Federley.

“Symbolic actions – particularly from members of parliament – are important,” Federley told The Local.

“This sends a signal to Burma and to China,” he said.

Sweden’s government has issued statements of support for the demonstrations in Burma. The foreign ministry has said it is following the situation carefully.