SOLIDARITY: People of Burma

27 09 2007

In solidarity with the people of Burma, who even now are braving bullets, tear gas and police batons to peacefully demand democratic change in one of the most oppressive countries in Asia.Latest reports indicate that several unarmed monks and citizens have been killed by gunfire from government troops as the Burmese military junta moves to crack down on the peaceful but growing civil protests led by the Buddhist monks in Yangon and Sittwe.

Except for the degree of violence, does any of this sound familiar?

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Extracted from the BBC: (highlights added)

 

Burma protesters defy crackdown

A monk flees as security forces fire warning shots and tear gas

Enlarge Image

Up to 10,000 Burmese Buddhist monks and civilians have defied police tear gas and live bullets on the ninth day of protests against the military rulers. At least one monk was killed, hospital sources in the main city of Rangoon said. The government has confirmed one death, without giving details.

Witnesses described monks with blood on their shaved heads as police charged at the Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon.

Meanwhile, the UN said it was sending a special adviser on Burma to the region.

The BBC’s James Robbins says Ibrahim Gambari’s mission – if he is allowed into Burma – will be to urge the regime to stop using force and to start moving towards full democracy.

Key locations of Rangoon democracy protests

Enlarge Map

Mr Gambari will first brief the UN Security Council at an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening.

Permanent members Russia and China have argued that the situation in Burma is a purely internal matter.

The confrontation in Burma has become a battle of wills between the country’s two most powerful institutions, the military and the monkhood, and the outcome is still unclear, the BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says.

Analysts fear a repeat of the violence in 1988, when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing thousands.

‘Entirely peaceful’

The scenes of turmoil witnessed during the day ended as a night-time curfew took hold.

A statement by Burma’s military government on state radio said one person had been killed and three others injured – the first official confirmation that the violence had caused casualties.

Police with rifles

The junta are using dirty tactics – they don’t fire guns but beat people with rifle butts

BBC News website reader

Accounts from Burma

In pictures: Mood darkens

In quotes: Global reaction

Earlier, a hospital source in Rangoon told the BBC that the monks were beaten with rifle butts, and that taxi drivers had transported the injured to nearby medical facilities.

Unconfirmed reports spoke of several dead.

The British ambassador to Burma, Mark Canning, told the BBC that people had shown their determination to demonstrate, despite a number of them being severely beaten.

He said at one point there were almost 10,000 people outside the embassy.

“There was a nucleus of perhaps 1,000 monks with probably 8,000 or 9,000 civilians – many women, many students.

“They have marched in big columns throughout various areas of the city. They were entirely peaceful,” he said.

Our correspondent says that for all their brutality, the security forces were clumsy. They failed to prevent demonstrators from making their way through the city and their attacks on the monks only enflamed public anger – none of which was reflected on state television.

A statement read out on air said the authorities were handling the situation “most softly to avoid incidents desired by destructive elements while protecting the people”.

Large demonstrations also took place in the cities of Mandalay and Sitwei, but the security forces there reportedly did little to prevent them.

‘Human shield’

A clampdown on the media by Burma’s military government, which has banned gatherings of five people or more and imposed a night-time curfew, has made following the exact course of the protests difficult.

It is known that on Wednesday thousands of monks and opposition activists moved away from Shwedagon pagoda, heading for Sule pagoda in the city centre.

Protesting monks in Rangoon this week

How will the junta respond?

Burma’s saffron army

Protests split regional media

Others headed for the home of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reports suggested they were prevented from reaching it but other demonstrators did gather at Sule to jeer soldiers.

Troops responded by firing tear gas and live rounds over the protesters’ heads, sending people running for cover.

Monks marching to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly urged civilians not to join them and not to resort to violence.

But elsewhere witnesses said civilians were shielding the marching monks by forming a human chain around them.

One BBC News website reader said: “The junta are using dirty tactics – they don’t fire guns but beat people with rifle butts. The monks defiantly did not fight back.”

The protests were triggered by the government’s decision to double the price of fuel last month, hitting people hard in the impoverished nation.

US President George W Bush has announced a tightening of US economic sanctions against Burma.


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3 responses

27 09 2007
Stu

It does sound familiar Ghl, the valiant lawyers and others who were forced to walk many kilometres after the oppressive police stopped them from preceding in their chartered buses, showed a similar democratic truth seeking spirit to that persistently displayed by the courageous Buddhist monks in Burma.
The Federal Reserve Unit (Malaysian riot police) would, no doubt, like their counterparts in Burma, not hesitate to brutally attack unarmed civilians if they were politically ordered to do so.
More peaceful protests and petitions should be initiated in order to exert continuous pressure for change in the way Malaysia is run.
More freedom of speech, expression, religion, assembly, human rights, and a real (not make believe) democratic system, a truly independent judiciary, and a free, fair and just society are prerequisites to a progressive and sustainable Malaysia.
The only way to effect positive change is to stand up for your rights and use your vote wisely.

[ GhL ] : Bravo to the Bar Council and all truth-seeking citizens.

27 09 2007
Satya

I beg to differ, Stu. I think it’s an insult to the people of Myanmar to compare their situation to ours. We have our fair share of problems in Malaysia, and things are FAAAAAAAAAAR from perfect. But one thing we can be thankful for is that things are nowhere near as bad as they are in Myanmar.

Here, 2 civilians were shot in Kuala Terengganu, and we’re all outraged (and rightly so). There, entire streets-ful of protesters were beaten up and trampled upon. Not even monks were spared. We fight for free speech and religious freedom, and they have to fight for even more basic things. We still have a vote which we can use wisely. That’s far more than can be said of the people of Myanmar. Our hearts and prayers go out to them.

Let’s be grateful that Malaysia is not that close to the brink yet. And let’s make sure we don’t get there.

PS: ASEAN’s non-interventionist policy be damned!

[ GhL ] : Well said, Satya, the situation in Myanmar is indeed far more serious than in Malaysia, but it’s really a case of them just being a bit further down the slippery slope of fascism that Malaysia has already started sliding down too. Call me cynical, but I also think that the PDRM / FRU wouldn’t hesitate to teargas/baton-charge (at least) peaceful protestors in Malaysia, except maybe in this case the prospect of facing a 2,000-strong army of lawyers was too much for even them to stomach.

ASEAN is useless and irrelevant. The problem is that too many ASEAN members have skeletons in their own closets, and criticising Myanmar’s fascist actions would bring their own questionable policies/actions to light.

Dare Malaysia condemn the violence in Myanmar, having just fired on our own citizens? Dare the Thai military regime, fresh from their latest coup d’etat and now busily slapping ‘lese majeste’ accusations on every critic in sight? Even squeaky-clean Singapore has virtually choked dissent and civil society activism by simply regulating civil society space out of existence. Have a look at the ROS regulations: about the only thing you could set up easily here is a knitting club.

27 09 2007
Stu

Well Satya, I fully agree with your statement. If my comment appeared to compare, or equate, the situation in Burma with that in Malaysia, that was certainly not the meaning nor the intent. I have very great respect for the Burmese people, indeed I have close friends from that country. Burma was not that many years ago a country with a very high standard of education, which was a good country in which to live, but unfortunately is is now, under the iron fist of a dictatorship and thus has degenerated and is a pathetic shadow of its former self. Malaysia is still relatively better if compared to many other countries, however it could, and should have been, far far better than it is. I venture to say that had the abundant wealth of natural and human resources been properly utilised, Malaysia could by this time, half a century after independence, be a well off, highly respected and truly democratic, a well rounded and a developed nation in every sense of the word.

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