Ongoing Horror in Burma

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Even as the blogosphere coalesces its coverage of the ongoing Burma (Myanmar) human rights disaster, the country itself is enforcing an internet crackdown, determined to lower world consciousness of its abuses.

It was about as simple and uncomplicated as shooting demonstrators in the streets. Embarrassed by smuggled video and photographs that showed their people rising up against them, the generals who run Myanmar simply switched off the Internet.

Until Friday television screens and newspapers abroad were flooded with scenes of tens of thousands of red-robed monks in the streets and of chaos and violence as the junta stamped out the biggest popular uprising there in two decades.

But then the images, text messages and postings stopped, shut down by generals who belatedly grasped the power of the Internet to jeopardize their crackdown.

So eyewitness reports may be slowing to a trickle. But what reports are forthcoming are not encouraging. The junta appears to have the upper hand, as of now, as thousands flee capture. The latest from the Christian Science Monitor profiles monks who managed to make it to the Thai border. It provides some background into what led up to the action taken up by the monks and its relative effectiveness within the country.

...The three monks agree that there was little debate about whether to join the protest. "There was no disharmony," Tha La says.

He and another monk say that they planned to return when it is safe, and vow to continue to push for reform through peaceful methods. He says the clergy will continue to shun the regime by refusing to accept alms. "If the soldiers give us food or medicine now, we won't accept them."

The brutal treatment of the revered Buddhist clergy, who infuriated the regime by refusing to accept alms, has stunned many Burmese, who ask how ordinary soldiers could beat, tear-gas, and shoot unarmed monks.

That has fed speculation by exiled Burmese activists of dissent in ranks over the crackdown amid reports by pro-democracy news services of unit commanders refusing to fire on crowds. A man who claimed to be an Army major told reporters in Thailand this week that he had defected and was seeking asylum in Norway because he refused to participate in the killings of monks.

"The military has insulted one of the most respected institutions in the country. So there is a crisis inside the Army over why they had to shoot Buddhist monks and use this brutality," says Zaw Oo, an exiled Burmese analyst and university lecturer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Such is the power of peaceful resistance, leveraging the conscience of the soldiers and populace. But it is not for the faint of heart, and only time will tell how effective it against the training and indoctrination of that country's military. The effect on the hearts and minds of people around the world of images that escaped the country last week, have been enormous. Please take time to put those feelings towards some sort of action. And don't forget to blog Burma today.

Just a handful of the great blog posts today:

Burma, Some Basics

Who Stands to Gain From Burma's Subjection?

Kossacks are failing Democracy: BURMA

Calling on Chevron and Condi Rice

Action Steps:

Stand With Burma Petition

Human Rights First Petition

Stand With the People of Burma Petition

Amnesty International Letter to President Bush

Appeal to the UN Security Council