Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma Update

First a video from the BBC:


Other news:

From Spiegel Online: Burmese Bloggers By-Pass Censors

The world has been watching as thousands of saffron-robed monks march through the streets of the Burmese captial Yangon in protest against the repressive military regime -- thanks to the images seeping out of the country via the Internet. While foreign journalists are being refused visas and are forced to wait in Bangkok hotels, ordinary Burmese are taking huge risks by taking photographs and blogging to communicate with the outside world.

CBS News reports this morning that Burma has shut down internet access.

Myanmar soldiers fired warning shots in the air and hit protesters with clubs to break up a demonstration Friday by about 2,000 people, witnesses said. Five of the protesters were seen being dragged into a truck and driven away.

Myanmar's military government appeared to have cut public Internet access and troops also occupied key Buddhist monasteries on Friday, witnesses and diplomats said, in an effort to end demonstrations against the ruling junta.

The moves raised concerns that the junta may be preparing to intensify a crackdown on civilians that has killed at least 10 people in the past two days. The Internet in particular has played a crucial role in getting news and images of the pro-democracy protests to the outside world.

I see this as a seriously bad development. If you're planning to slaughter people, the first thing you do is eliminate any possibility of images getting out to the rest of the world.

Al Jazeera
is reporting that the monks have three demands they want the government to meet.

Uppekha is Buddhist monk and member of the All Burma Buddhist Monks Alliance, one of the groups that has led the wave of anti-government protests in .

Based at a monastery in the northern city of, Uppekha said he and other monks at the monastery wanted to join the protests, but that their monastery had been surrounded by soldiers.

Speaking by telephone from inside the monastery, he told Al Jazeera of the measures the monks were calling for:

"There are three steps that we want.

"The first step is to reduce all commodity prices, fuel prices, rice and cooking oil prices immediately.

"The second step – release all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and all detainees arrested during ongoing demonstrations over the fuel price hike.

"The third step – enter a dialogue with pro-democracy forces for national reconciliation immediately, to resolve the crisis and difficulties facing and suffered by the people.

Uppekha said he had expected more help from the UN and emphasised that all the protests had been peaceful.

He said: "We have a chance to create our own rights. We have a chance to create our own freedom.

Meanwhile, Michael Gerson, writing for the Washington Post, gets it:

The great virtue of Buddhism is serene courage in the face of inevitable affliction. That courage is on display now in Burma -- a nation caught upon the wheel of suffering.

The sight of young, barefoot monks in cinnamon robes quietly marching for democracy, amid crowds carrying banners reading "love and kindness," is already a symbol of conscience for a young century. On closer examination, these protests have also shown that nonviolence need not be tame or toothless. The upside-down bowls carried by some of the monks signal that they will not accept alms from the leaders of the regime, denying them the ability to atone for bad deeds or to honor their ancestors. These chanting monks are playing spiritual hardball.

Once again -- as in the American civil rights struggle and the end of communism in Eastern Europe -- religion is proving to be an uncontrollable force in an oppressive society. Religious dissidents have the ability not only to organize opposition to tyrants but also to shame them. Political revolutions often begin as revolutions of the spirit.

But the spirit, at least for the moment, is fastened to the body, which is subject to truncheons, tear gas and imprisonment. The junta in control of Burma, as we are seeing, is capable of extraordinary brutality. A regime that employs forced labor, conducts war on ethnic minorities and engages in systematic rape will hardly balk at the murder of monks and other protesters -- something it has done before by the thousands.

Read the rest.

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