Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Burma 4: The reality on the ground
Pic at left: Robert Aitken Roshi signing a petition (more than 500,000 signatures so far!) at Magic Island candlelight event Sunday evening. Pic at right is of a group of Laotian monks chanting later on at the same event.
Burma remains in the news, though sanitized. Newspapers are willing to print pictures of monks marching in the street, but that's about it. The photos are colorful and impressive and might satisfy readers. What is omitted, of course, is a real sense of the tragedy that is unfolding.
There's no harm in reading the daily paper accounts, of course, but you'll need to jump onto the Internet to learn more. And I hope you will do that. But warning: if all you want to see is monks marching, stop now. What is happening to the people of Burma is not pleasant to see.
Best sources of information so far:
The last one carries a live news story that the Prime Minister of Burma, Lt-Gen Soe Win, has died at a military hospital of leukemia. Soe Win is also known as "the Butcher of Depayin" for ordering the Depayin massacre in May, 2003.
Deep background in brief: Sylvester Stallone on the long-term genocide he personally witness while filming along the Thai/Burmese border:
"I witnessed the aftermath - survivors with legs cut off and all kinds of land mine injuries, maggot-infested wounds and ears cut off. We saw many elephants with blown off legs. We hear about Vietnam and Cambodia and this was more horrific," Stallone said in a telephone interview.
...The scenes he described occurred before the crackdown against large pro-democracy protests when soldiers responded by opening fire with automatic weapons on unarmed demonstrators.
For decades, Burma's army has waged a war against ethnic groups in which soldiers have razed villages, raped women and killed civilians.
..."This is full scale genocide. It would be a whitewashing not to show what's over there. I think there is a story that needs to be told," Stallone said.
An article from yesterday's Mother Jones, The Politics of the Belly: Who's Enabling Burma's Junta?:
NEW DELHI – When Niang Cing left her Rangoon apartment for the market last Thursday afternoon, she walked into a scene of revolution. Throngs of people, some 20,000 by most accounts, were marching in the streets, clapping as they walked. It was an almost unprecedented sight in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and even though the protesters had only the most straightforward demands—affordable food prices and freedom for political prisoners—the ruling junta, like all juntas, knew what was at stake.
Within minutes, recalls Niang, a 47-year-old gem dealer, riot squads appeared; three truckloads of soldiers began to dismount and, without warning, opened fire. "We saw people fall down and saw blood in the street," Niang told me on the phone from her home. "Everyone was running. It was terrible."
The killing of a Japanese journalist, Mr. Kenji Nagai, in Burma, has been big news in Asia. Nagai filed reports from Iraq during the invasion of Baghdad in 2003. Notes attached to the YouTube video below described his death:
Times Online described, "In his right hand is a video camera, held above the ground to protect it from the fall." Needless to say, his video camera was confiscated. It was missing when his belongings were returned by Myanmar authorities.
Someone made the preceding video into a tribute. The journalist, The audio is Tibetan troth singing (form of praying meditation)
There is news out there for the Googling. Please do more than rely on this blog for news on Burma, I can't do the job it would take to stay on top of events. Also, reading and blogging about this is good, but not enough. The most prevalent thought among activists seems to be that pressure can be brought on the military junta through China, which is sensitive right now to international pressure because of the upcoming Olympics. This seems worth a try. Your faxes or phone calls to Chinese consulates or embassies might help. Find what groups are doing and consider joining their effort. Maybe it will work. In the past there was no clear way that ordinary citizens could help the long-suffering people of Burma. This time, maybe there is a way.
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