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

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

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No Child Left Behind Scores Are Out

The No Child Left Behind scores are out for the year.  Apparently there have been improvements in math and science.  Reading scores have either flatlined or gotten worse.  Here’s what President Bush said in response to the scores:

“Childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.”

Nope, that’s not a typo on my part. 

‘Nuff said.

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Has the Beauty Turned Into Brutality? Burma, Part Three

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

There is less news out of Burma today.  Last night, Anderson Cooper said there was a media blackout, though, which would explain why there is so much less news.  But there are good things and bad things I’ve been reading.

Apparently, at least nine people were killed yesterday and at least eleven were wounded.  No report there on how many were monks.  Still, hundreds of monks were arrested yesterday in an effort by the Burmese government to prevent further protests.  Burmese officials say only one person died and only two were injured during this action, but other witnesses claim at least five are dead and hundreds were wounded.

It was unclear, early this morning, whether the monks would return to the streets.  Apparently, out fo fear of the government crackdowns, the monks stayed away today.  But throughout Burma, thousands of laypeople took to the streets in support of the monks and in support of the push toward democracy.

Also, George Bush has announced increased sanctions against senior officials in Burma.  Read that one here:

Bush Imposes Sanctions On Myanmar After Crackdown

I really wish we had the ability to do more than just impose sanctions.  I really do.

The last bit of news I have is a report from the Associated Press describing the odds against the monks.  The good news is that there are more monks than members of the military.  Also, those in the military tend to be Buddhist so it is difficult to imagine them attacking monks.  The bad news is that, well, they have attacked the monks. 

Along with that, the military and police have more practice today with non-lethal methods of controling the people of Burma than they did in the late 1980s/ early 1990s.  I’m unsure if that is good or bad news — good because less people, hopefully, will die; bad because it will make it harder for the international community to get over there and support the demonstrators.  Read all about the odds:

Odds against monks facing Myanmar troops

I will continue to post about what is happening in Burma as more news comes in.

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

What’s Going On in Burma, Part Two

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

The post on the demonstrations in Burma is getting quite long because there is new news, seemingly, every hour.  I’m starting a new post in order to try and keep the original “What’s Going On in Burma” post from being overwhelmingly long. 

Here is the latest news, as of 3:30 on Wednesday, September 26: 

The associated press has confirmed that at least four people have been killed in Burma, and at least three of those were Buddhist monks.  Meanwhile, the junta has now surrounded at least six major monasteries in the attempt to stop further demonstrations.  They have also ordered bus drivers not to pick up any monks. 

There are also reports of monks wearing gas masks to counteract the effects of the military’s tear gas.  Amid the tear gas, witnesses claim to have seen at least 200 monks arrested.

Time Magazine has put together a report about the confrontation.  The report is an amalgamation of a number of eyewitness accounts that they have been receiving.  Read it here.

Reuters has put together a timeline of events related to this story.  The timeline goes back to August 15th.  You may find it here.


Monks protest: 100000 march in new Myanmar protest” posted by news6776

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

The Long Run, from The New York Times

Most of what I’ve been reading about, writing about, and thinking about over the past week or so have been the developments in Burma.  But here is a quick post about the upcoming Presidential Election in America.

The New York Times has been running a series of extended reports on the Presidential candidates of both parties.  The series is called “The Long Run”.  The paper describes the series in the following way: “This is part of a series of articles about the lives and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.”

Here are links to the reports that have been published so far:

Dodd’s Other Campaign: Fixing Dad’s Reputation (not exactly part of the series, but the only report of this kind on Dodd so far)
In 9/11 Chaos, Giuliani Forged a Lasting Image 
In Olympics Success, Romney Found New Edge
In 2000, a Streetwise Veteran Schooled a Bold Young Obama
In Turmoil of ’68, Clinton Found a New Voice 
As Counsel, Thompson Walked Capital’s Fine Line 
In a Volatile City, a Stern Line on Race and Politics (Giuliani again)
In Illinois, Obama Proved Pragmatic and Shrewd (Obama again)

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Briefly on Darfur

A quick note about the genocide in Darfur.  A heartwrenching full page ad was taken out in yesterdays’ New York Times by the organization, SaveDarfur.org.  I can’t find the specific image online, but there are plenty of other advertisements on the organization’s website.

More than that, SaveDarfur.org has plenty of information about what is going on and what you can do about it.  Go to the website and figure out something, anything to help end this attrocity.

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What’s Going On in Burma

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

The protests in Burma have made it to the front page of The New York Times today.  To read about the 100,000 plus who marched, as well as to see a wonderful picture, read here:

Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta

Let’s try to put these protests into a bit of context.  Burma(currently known as Myanmar) has been attempting Democracy since the fifties.  The usual story occured, filled with puppet presidents, military coups and various squelched rebellions. 

The story really picks up in the late 1980s.  Pro-democracy demonstrations began and they ousted the dictatorship of Ne Win.  More generals seized power, though, by brutally crushing the protesters.  Thousands died as the generals/dictators gunned down the protesters and demonstrators.

In 1990, elections were held and the National League for Democracy won the majority of seats in the government’s elections.  The military-run State Law and Order Restoration Council declared the elections invalid and Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, was placed under house arrest.  She has been under house arrest on and off, being released for short periods of time and then returned to having military guards outside her home, ever since and was seen for the first time in four years last week when the monks travelled to her home.

The monks have been marching since September 17th, 2007and since then the public has joined them.  Over the weekend, 100,000 people marched, about 5,000 of whom were young Buddhist monks.  These protests began for a number of reasons.  Some are marching in response to economic conditions (the marches began as the government raised fuel prices in this very poor Asian country).  Others are marching in response to the cruelty of the government.  Still others are just marching because they want more Democracy, a link that has been strengthened each time the monks have lead the demonstrators to Aung San Suu Kyi’s home. 

The junta (the government run military) has been careful about how it deals with these protests.  The Buddhist monks in Burma are considered the conscience of the country (the young monks who are protesting claim that, as the country’s conscience, they must do something about the situation of average people in Burma).  The monks are also revered.  A violent response toward the monks could, and likely would, incite major riots throughout the country.  The monks have, to say it simply, put the junta in a tough spot. 

Since the demonstrations began, the Burmese government has not acknowledged the actions of the monks or their followers.  Television and radio in the country, run by the government, have not covered the story.  The information that is spreading is spreading thanks to new technologies like the internet, which the government has been unable to control.

But today the situation has changed again.  After a week of demonstrations, after a week of red robed monks marching and saying, “May there be peace”, the Burmese government has warned the monks to stop their demonstrations.  The government has told senior Buddhist monks to control the younger monks who are protesting.  If the monks don’t stop demonstrating, the government will be forced to take action.  At the same time, U.S. President, George W. Bush has announced increased military sanctions against the Burmese government and against governments that support it.  This, he says, will help the growing movement for democracy in Burma.  The end results of this, he hopes, will be the end of the dictatorship in Burma and the spread of Democracy throughout the country (and perhaps throughout Asia).

I can’t exactly say why I am so fascinated by this story.  I’ve talked in recent posts about the beauty of the images that relate to this story.  And certainly the peaceful demonstrations against an evil dictatorship inspire hope that the world may yet be saved. 

I also am struck by this wonderful use of religion.  So often those on the left are plagued by religious groups who are doing things to fight what we consider civil liberties (abortion, same sex marriage) or who are fighting science (stem cell research, evolution).  Here we see the power of religion to lift a people up.  Here we see the ability of religion to fight for justice and equality.  Here we have an example of how religion can inspire a people to stand up for themselves.

I hope the demonstrations continue in Burma and I hope the sanctions imposed hurt the government (but not the people — though the usual effect of sanctions is to make innocent, poor people more poor while having little, if any, effect on the government under sanction).  I hope violence doesn’t break out and I hope our news doesn’t have to start covering the brutal assassinations and mass murders of monks and poor people (it would be a shame for CNN to start covering this story in prime time only after violence breaks out).

But maybe there is a powerful, maybe even industrialized, nation that can use all of its political, economic and military prestige and strength to support this pro-democracy movement against a violent, totalitarian, oppressive dictatorship.  Anyone able to take this supportive role?  Anyone who hasn’t already committed all of their resources in another area of the globe?

Much of my education about this story came from the following sources:
100,000 Turn Out for Myanmar Protest
Myanmar government warns monks
The New York Times: Myanmar
Bush to Impose Sanctions on Myanmar
The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th Edition: “Myanmar”

Other posts about this topic include:
Wild Chihuahuas: Where Are Our Monks
Hard Talks: 1000,000 turn out for Myanmar protest
Petunias: More Burma
Myanmar Burma News: Mok Revolution In Burma
Rule of Lords: Saffron Revolution
With Bowl and Rice: Burma: In Praise of the Buddhist Monks
whereinsoever: the road to myanmar looks bleak, folks
Burma Review: India can’t afford to be a fense sitter in Burma’s struggle for Democracy
Myanmar Ethnic Rehingyas Human Rights Organization Malaysia: FACTS ABOUT CHINA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BURMA’S MILITARY REGIME
Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish: A Saffron Revolution?

UPDATED 9/25/07: 6:28 PM

Two new developments out of Burma today.  The protests did continue, this time with 35,000 people and with an estimated 10,000 of those being Buddhist monks.  They traveled the streets chanting, “Democracy, democracy.”  In response, a nightime curfew has been imposed and all gatherings of more than five people have been banned. 

During the demonstrations today, there were no overt signs of the police or the junta.  But after the demonstrators left, riot police and troops moved in, filling up the city’s center.  At the same time, witnesses claim that Aung San Suu Kyi was taken from her home and moved to Insein prison.  This would take a powerful symbol away from the demonstrators as they would no longer be able to march to her (though they, theoretically, could march to her home still).  Read more about these events:

Myanmar imposes curfew, bans assembly

Troops move in after monks chant ‘democracy’

UPDATED 9/25/07: 6:28 PM

I am attempting to change all references to Myanmar into references to Burma.  Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for reminding me that the violent and repressive anti-democracy generals are the ones who changed the name from Burma to Myanmar.

UPDATED 9/26/07: 11:14 PM

More news out of Burma today.  The monks (and civilians) continued their protests, despite the government’s ban on gatherings.  Shots were fired.  The Associated Press has confirmed that the government’s security forces have killed one person and wounded three.  Witnesses claim at least five people are dead (including monks), but that information has not been confirmed.  Read more:

Violent crackdown launched in Myanmar
Police Clash With Monks in Myanmar

And on the blogs:

Asian Students Association: Burma: SPDC Responds to Monks’ Protest with Violence
Burma Digest: Photo: Bloody Crack Down in Burma
Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish: Burma on the Brink
Framed: Courage

And an editorial from The New York Times:

The Despotism Formerly Known as Burma

UPDATED 9/26/07: 3:30 PM

This post is getting so long that I have decided to put all further updates into a new post.  So if you’ve read this and want to know what has happened after this, go read “What’s Going On in Burma, Part Two.

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