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Burma rising?

September 23, 2007

For the seventh day in a row, monks are marching in the streets of Rangoon, demanding an end to the military government.

Burma. Map from Wikimedia Commons.

For the last forty years, the South-East Asian country of Burma has been ruled by one of the most ruthless military governments the world has ever seen. The last major uprising demanding democracy was started by students in August 1988. The so-called 8888 Uprising gained momentum as government workers, monks, soldiers and teachers joined the protests. The uprising came to a bloody end as the Burmese army killed hundreds, maybe thousands of protesters.

In the iron grip of the military junta

Since 1988, the military government has held the country in an iron grip. Universities have been closed because the generals feared new student protests, and education is a privilege reserved for children of loyal cronies of the government. In May 1990, the government held “free” elections for the first time in almost 30 years. The National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won 392 out of a total 489 seats, but the election results were annulled by the military junta, which refused to step down. Since the, the military government has held the country in an iron grip, and Suu Kyi has been imprisoned, either in prison or in her own house.

Monks protesting

Protests against the regime have been rare, as the military junta has succeeded in creating a climate of fear. That might be about to change. After rising the price of fuel by up to five times the former price on August 15., the Burmese government now see not only the prices, but the very people rising. Activists from NLD took to the streets protesting the price hike, and were soon joined by both ordinary people and buddhist monks. The generals must have hoped that the momentum of the demonstrations would eventually die down, but so far,the opposite seems to be the case. After the military beat up several monks during a rally in Pakokku, monks have been marching all over the country demanding an apology from the government. According to the BBC, the demonstrations are escalating because the monks – now joined by 150 nuns – are urging civilians to join in.

Burma’s three sons

The Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks, which is leading the demonstrations, has vowed to continue until they had “wiped the military dictatorship from the land”. While I doubt that the Buddhist monks can bring about democracy on their own, a Burmese saying states that when the “three sons” of the nation join hands, the military regime will be in big trouble.

The three sons – a play on words in the Burmese language – are students, monks and soldiers. The monks are already marching, and the students have been quietly working for a better Burma ever since 1988. The important question now is whether Burmese soldiers will join them in their struggle for democracy, or once more be the iron heel that crushes every hope, just like they were in ’88?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2007 3:37 pm

    Thank you for writing this, I wasn’t even aware this was going on–which is a said indication of a) what the media covers and, b) my having given up on the media which may be foolish as then I tend to know next to nothing. I just finished reading a couple pieces about the situation and about Aung San Suu Kyi–I’ll have to read more about her as she sounds fascinating. I can only hope that this time the soldiers will join in and peace might be won–although in some ways I hope that peace might be won without the soldiers. This whole situation highlights that struggle I have with the notion of “peace at any cost” when the cost includes violence on the side of the peace makers. It sounds as if Aung San Suu Kyi is a strong proponent of taking the country back through non-violence–citing Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi as examples. In many ways it takes so much more courage and resolution to gain peace with non-violence, I am hoping they can once again show the world that it can be done.

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  2. September 23, 2007 5:27 pm

    I see why you haven’t been aware of the situation in Burma. Even though the BBC’s web edition has covered the recent protest fairly well, the news from Burma is not exactly among the biggest headlines. I probably wouldn’t have noticed myself if I hadn’t had a special eye for the word “Burma”. In 2001 I worked as a volunteer for the Student Peace Prize, which was awarded to Burmese student activist Min Ko Naing. Ever since, I have been on the lookout for good news from Burma.

    Like you, I have problems with the whole concept of “fighting for peace”. In Burma at least, toppling the military junta through armed attacks is not an option. When I write about the soldiers joining the monks and the students in their struggle, what I hope for is that they will deny the generals’ orders if they are ordered to attack the protesters. If (or hopefully when) the army is no longer at the generals’ command, and the soldiers join the monks and students in their protests, the generals no longer possess the instrument they need to keep the people down. If that happens, the future looks bright for the troubled Burmese people.

    Like

  3. October 31, 2011 4:54 am

    Thank you for writing this, I wasn’t even aware this was going on–which is a said indication of a) what the media covers and, b) my having given up on the media which may be foolish as then I tend to know next to nothing. I just finished reading a couple pieces about the situation and about Aung San Suu Kyi–I’ll have to read more about her as she sounds fascinating. I can only hope that this time the soldiers will join in and peace might be won–although in some ways I hope that peace might be won without the soldiers. This whole situation highlights that struggle I have with the notion of “peace at any cost” when the cost includes violence on the side of the peace makers. It sounds as if Aung San Suu Kyi is a strong proponent of taking the country back through non-violence–citing Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi as examples. In many ways it takes so much more courage and resolution to gain peace with non-violence, I am hoping they can once again show the world that it can be done.
    +1

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Largest Burmese protest march in 20 years « Sungame
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