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Soldiers Break Up Burma Protests, Seal Off Monasteries

by Pamela Leavey

The latest news on the democracy uprising in Burma is bleak. As the deadly crackdown intensifies in Burma it’s been reported that “security forces sealed off five monasteries that were focal points of previous mass marches, in a bid to prevent further demonstrations.”

Official media said nine people were killed on Thursday as troops fired tear gas and bullets to clear large crowds of protesters off Rangoon’s streets.

British and Australian ambassadors in Burma say the toll was probably higher.

[…]

Monasteries have been raided and hundreds of monks are thought to have been detained. Pictures from Burma show ransacked monasteries with pools of blood on the ground.

Among the dead in the uprising is a “Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai, who had been covering the demonstrations, according to his employer, APF News.”

Among the many outrages in Burma, survivors report the soldiers have been sacking the monasteries and pilaging money and gold from them…

They took money from locked boxes and carried off a gold statue and a hoard of golden rings. And so it becomes clear why the Government has imposed an eight-hour overnight curfew. It was not to protect the city from “terrorists”, but to prevent its citizens bearing witness to its own crimes.

Similar raids – with beatings, terror and arrests – were reported in at least three other monasteries. Several senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, were also rounded up overnight.

Kenneth Denby reporting for Times Online notes sadly:

There are so many heartbreaking things about what is going in Burma, but for a foreigner one of the hardest to bear is the optimism. There are few foreign journalists here, but people treat them as saviours, encouraging them to get the story and the pictures out, with a touching faith that it will make a difference.

“Tell them to send foreign troops, UN troops,” said a young monk at the Mwe Kya Kan pagoda. “Please, fly them to our country to save our lives.”

An American in Rangoon told me yesterday about an opinion poll carried out on Burmese attitudes to US foreign policy.

“Like most people, they thought that it sucks,” he told me. “But not for the usual reason. Burmese wanted to know why George Bush hasn’t invaded their country yet.”

A boy named Raphael came up to practise his English, as the crowd screamed at the soldiers, and asked for my address so that he could visit me one day. A very small and old but irrepressibly vigorous white-haired man took my hand and led me to safety when he thought that I was too close to the trouble. “I am a teacher,” he said proudly. “PhD!”

Small, human encounters – and yet in these dark circumstances they become almost unbearably poignant. They are based on a very questionable assumption: that the people of Burma are going to be saved.

I wish that I could have told the monk, and the boy and the old man, that I believed everything would be well and that soon they could expect the basic decency from their Government that so many of us take for granted. Nothing is settled, of course, and the future is impossible to read – but on the basis of what I saw yesterday the Burmese junta is winning.

While the Burmese people may be looking for George Bush to invade and save their country, and it appears that some Big Oil (Bush cronies) companies are on the move in Burma…

While Myanmar’s military junta cracks down on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are busy jostling for access to the country’s largely untapped natural gas and oil fields.

Just last Sunday – as marches led by Buddhist monks drew thousands in the country’s biggest cities – Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora was in Myanmar’s capital for the signing of contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd. and Myanmar’s military rulers to explore three offshore blocks.

Companies from China, South Korea, Thailand and elsewhere also are looking to exploit the energy resources of the desperately poor Southeast Asian country.

France’s Total SA and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, currently pump gas from fields off Myanmar’s coast through a pipeline to Thailand, which takes 90 percent of Myanmar’s gas output, according to Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production PLC.

But investing in Myanmar has brought accusations that petroleum corporations offer economic support to the country’s repressive junta, and in some cases are complicit in human rights abuses.

Internet and cell phones have been cut off, “at least temporarily” and AP’s Jennifer Loven reports, “The White House criticized Myanmar on Friday for cutting off Internet access and called on “all civilized nations” to pressure the military-run government to end its violent crackdown on protesters.”

“They don’t want the world to see what is going on there,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

Oh the irony

4 Responses to “Soldiers Break Up Burma Protests, Seal Off Monasteries”

  1. I know it’s wrong but it’s things like this that make me wish that we would roll out the military. I don’t sense that it would be a real answer ultimately, but governments just cannot kill their citizens with impunity. I’m not sure that there even is an international tribunal for this, let alone how the responsible persons could finally be brought before it.

    It seems like the killing of Monks should be the begining of the end of the oppression but they shot so many people last time that there may be just no way to overcome their power.

  2. Darrell

    It seems that something more than sanctions needs to be done. It’s a mess over there. Very disturbing.

  3. The President of the United Sates (any of them) has the power to end things like this but I’m not aware that the effort has ever been tried. And it should more rightfully be done on an international level but that only makes for the kind of complexity that causes decisions to be harder to come by.

    The Ambassador here has the ear of the right people back home (dieing for their country being something which we just never seem to ask of our own Diplomats in foreign postings). Summoned to the Whitehouse he need only be given a list of names and told that further violence against their own citizens would earn those on the list a summary execution. Not summary in the sense of being able to afford the sort of immediate relief that the world now craves. But at least a reasonable final accounting, so long as our President and we have the commitment to back our threat/promise up with whatever resources are required to make it the sort of reality that captivates the thinking of those it is directed to.

    Yeah, they might all go hide in the jungle when the see the task force mass, but disarming Myanmar would be no hard task. Those little assholes are all brave when told to shoot their unarmed fellow citizens (easier than shooting their own officers?) but facing down an armada of helicopter gunships is sure to be another story. As for the big shots, hiding in the jungle for the remainder of their lives would still be a form of death that others receiving this same message down through time would see as the kind of truth that should inform their own actions.

    (Hopefully these bastards will at least face some truly ugly sanctions.)

  4. Free Burma!
    International Bloggers’ Day for Burma on the 4th of October

    International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.

    http://www.free-burma.org