The Ugliness of the Situation: Burma, Part Four

[view all of my posts about the Burma Demonstrations by clicking here]

Surprisingly, and sadly, there is a lot of news out of Burma today.  The title of the front page article from The New York Times, I think, says it all:

More Deaths in Myanmar, And Defiance

Those of you who have been following my posts about the crisis in Burma (and I feel confident, now, about calling it a crisis), know how much I have commented about the beauty of the images of the monks protesting.  I linked to one particular image on September 24th’s post, “What’s Going On in Burma“.  Look at that image and compare it to the image that accompanies today’s New York Times article.  I am chilled to my core.

Before dawn yesterday, the military junta conducted raids on Buddhist monestaries.  It continued throughout the day with tear gas, beatings and gunfire. 

From what I understand, the monks have not marched again today.  However, pockets of laypeople have continued their demonstrations, despite the government’s recent ban on groups of more than five people.  The small pockets of demonstrators ranged in size from a few hundred to around 2,000.  Shots were fired (some as warnings, but other reports claim the shots were fired at demonstrators) and at least ten people have been killed.  Some witnesses are reporting far more but the news agencies have been hesitant to list numbers that they cannot confirm.  Other protests were broken up when the military junta attacked the crowds with clubs, beating the civilians.  The number of wounded is unknown.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed “revulsion” today and told the junta “to exercise utmost restraint and seek a political solution.” Meanwhile, the protests have spread throughout the region with demonstrations against the junta occuring in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and elsewhere.

The Burmese government has also reinforced the media blackout by suspending the services of major internet providers, BaganNet and Myanmar Post and Telecom.  There have also been reports of the government closing Internet cafes, which had been where a lot of citizens had been loading and sending images from their camera phones.

Meanwhile, China (along with Russia) have blocked attempts by the UN to condemn the actions of Burma’s military junta.  This is significant since China is one of Burma’s chief allies and economic supporters.  President Bush, along with other European leaders, are urging China to pressure the Burmese government to show restraint.  Bush had a one-on-one meeting at the White House yesterday with China’s foreign minister, during which he urged China to use its influence to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy.

It has been made clear to all experts on the situation that the big question of whether or not the predominantly Buddhist military in Burma would attack the monks.  From what has been reported, it is clear that their loyalty to the government is much stronger than their loyalty to the monks. 

The next big question that needs to be answered, then, is what effect the international sanctions will have.  According to the New York Times report (linked at the beginning), the sanctions are likely to have little to no effect on the Burmese government.  Certainly, none of the sanctions that have been in effect over the past twenty years have had any effect and so, the theory goes, it is unlikely that any more sanctions will have anay effect.  Thant Myint-U, a former United Nations official who wrote River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, is quoted as saying, “The big missing piece of the puzzle is what is going on in the minds of the senior leadership.  Nothing that they have said in the last 20 years would suggest that they will back down.”

This is not good.  This is a crisis.  Someone needs to get to Burma to support the demonstrators and, quite frankly, they need to have gotten there three days ago.  The UN Secretary General has sent a special envoy to Burma to act as a third party intermediary and hopefully he can help defuse the situation.  But it is unclear when he will get there.

But it does not look good for the people of Burma.  Sunai Phasuk, a representative of Human Rights Watch in Thailand, has said that all of the phone numbers of his contacts in Burma have gone dead.  The government is going to try to keep information from flowing out of Burma.  In today’s world, that is likely impossible.  Still, the situation seems to be getting worse by the day.

Yahoo has an article from the Associated press that contains satellite images of Burma.  It is worth reading:

Satellite images may show Myanmar abuses

There is also an accompanying video that you may want to view:

Satellite images may show Myanmar abuses


[view all of my posts about the Burma Demonstrations by clicking here]


2 Responses

  1. You can see what the atrocities in eastern Burma look like on the ground in the ‘Shoot on Sight’ video at and at

  2. Sam,

    Thanks for sending the link. I’ll check it out and let my readers know about it.

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