The peaceful marches staged in Myanmar demanding freedom and lead by thousands of red robed Monks have been violently and ruthlessly put down. Streets where over 100,000 protested are now deserted except for the troops that have been deployed to stop any further gatherings. Citizens are forbidden to congregate in groups larger than five and those in violation of this order will be “arrested”. The consequences of being arrested in Myanmar can be fatal.
Reports from Burmese dissidents, bloggers and those working in the underground pro-democracy movement indicate that even within the first few days of the Junta’s crackdown on the protests that thousands had been killed. It is only now that a few Westerners are claiming to have seen the aftermath of these atrocities that the reports are taken seriously.
In a despairing letter to the Bangkok Post Burmese pro-democracy activist Zaw Tun pointed out that the life of one Japanese photographer is worth more than the lives of a thousand Burmese and prayed that Buddha might turn all Burmese into Japanese so that the world would care. This plea is reminiscent of the remarks made by Cambodians who fled the Khmer Rouge at how the French had organizations dedicated to protecting the safety of dogs so their indifference to the suffering of Cambodians must indicate that a dog’s life has more value.
The Junta in Myanmar has trucked in thousands of supposed supporters from rural villages to show the world they have support. Considering the Juntas usual brutality towards any village that supports any resistance it’s not difficult to imagine the choice the villagers were given; march or die. The greatest fear for the pro-democracy movement in and outside Myanmar now is that with the grand marches over and most of the monks laying dead in unmarked graves that the outside world will once again forget about the Burmese people.
Despite the promise of some sort of constitutional reform that will pave the way for new elections the Junta doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere. Without some grand mutiny within the ranks of its army there is really little anyone can do to force them out from within Burma. Sanctions are unlikely thanks to Russian and Chinese foot-dragging at the U.N. and even if they were passed the Junta with its various illicit activities would barely feel their bite. In dealing with the Myanmar’s Junta one is dealing with drug lords, human traffickers and gun runners who feel no remorse or concern for those they rule over. Their corruption is as absolute as their ruthlessness. They have waged brutal ethnic cleansing campaigns against various groups such as the Karens while the world has yawned in disinterest. They have been no less cruel to ethnic Burmese who step out of line.
The one thing that the Junta does fear is that this time, unlike 1988, the world will keep paying attention. The more pressure that can be exerted on those who’ve had trade dealings with Myanmar such as China, the more likely some sort of change can be made. How much change can be accomplished is difficult to say. The Junta has demonstrated clearly how far they are willing to go to keep their grip on power. It is imperative that pressure be maintained until the Burmese people have the freedom they so greatly desire.