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Myanmar Monks Aren’t Kidding Around

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An estimated 100,000 people joined 20,000 Buddhist monks in a twelve-mile protest march through Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) on Monday. The protesters are opposed to the ruling military junta in Myanmar who have been in power since the 1960s.

Within hours of the end of the peaceful protest, Myanmar's military government issued a dire warning to senior Buddhist clerics telling them that if they did not restrain their juniors, the government would take action. The government says those involved were instigated by the regime's domestic and foreign enemies.

Tuesday was the 19th anniversary of the current junta’s violent crackdown that crushed vast pro-democracy demonstrations. This latest round of protests began August 19 when several hundred citizens marched to protest the government’s increased fuel prices that resulted in a significantly higher cost of living.

Monks began peacefully protesting August 30 in Sittwe. A second march took place on September 5 in the northern town of Pakokku. It was ended when troops fired warning shots, and Junta supporters manhandled some marchers.

The movement seemed to falter with arrests and intimidation, but the monks, regarded as the moral authority, took to the streets last week and were joined by 20,000 people and 100 white-robed nuns. Plainclothes police followed the protesters. Some of the police carried shotguns, while other police manned street corners ahead of the march.

Several other marches took place in Yangon, all lead by monks. Myanmar exile media reported demonstrations took place in Mandalay, Monywa, Kalay, and the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina.

A religious boycott has been started by some of the monks wherein they hold their black begging bowls upside down, a symbolic gesture refusing alms from authorities and those who support them.

The word for “boycott” in the Myanmar language originates with the words for holding the bowl upside down. To ostracize the junta in this way is of great significance for the country's very devout Buddhist population.

Supporters offered the monks water, milk, and soda. Numerous people taking part in the Yangon march created a human chain to protect the monks.

The military has not challenged the protester’s leaders. They know any malevolence toward the monks would provoke public outrage.

About 400 people took another route in Monday’s march, heading for the house of pro-democracy leader, reformist leader, and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. They were blocked by security forces already in place.

Suu Kyi greeted the protesters, her first public appearance in almost five years. Her appearance serves to symbolically connect the protests with her struggle for democracy.
Sixty-two year old Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy party. An opposition movement, led by Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy party, won general elections in 1990.

Suu Kyi and the party were barred from assuming power by the military who refused to honor the results. Suu Kyi has been detained since May of 2003 and has been under house arrest, off and on, for nearly twenty years.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the people of Myanmar "deserve a life to be able to live in freedom, just as everyone does." She noted the Bush administration is watching the situation “very carefully.”

Tom Casey, U.S. State Department spokesman, said Monday the people of Myanmar "deserve better than they're getting," and urges the regime to listen to the protesters' complaints and allow political freedoms. "We appreciate and respect the difficulties that people have in trying to express their views in a society as repressive as Burma is right now," Casey said.

President Bush is scheduled to discuss the “brutality” of the military’s regime. His is to rally support for pro-democracy protesters when he and other leaders meet at the U.N. General Assembly.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • moonraven

    There is little or no difference against the political stance of Bush and that of the military junta ruling Myanmar.

    The difference is that there aren’t thousands of monks who haven’t cut off their balls in the US.

  • Dr Dreadful

    The more striking difference is Bush’s attitude to Myanmar vs. his attitude to Saddam’s Iraq.

    I thought sanctions didn’t work, Dubya? How about the spurious accusations of WMDs? The false links to terrorism? If the Burmese junta is so evil, where’s the invasion force?

    Or is there not enough oil to make it worthwhile?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Kym posted this to an article called Dangerous Chat in China published here in 2003. It is more appropriate to this article….
    Based on this, it is worth watching the news out of Burma.

    Please help to stop the killings in Burma,
    Just take some time and act and help people who are suffering.. Just spread the word…………..
    Buddhist Monks will probably be killed tonight because of a peaceful protest.

  • Doug Hunter

    “The more striking difference is Bush’s attitude to Myanmar vs. his attitude to Saddam’s Iraq.”

    Be realistic, that’s apples and oranges. Burma hasn’t invaded it’s neighbors or even threatened to do so. It also is not geographically, culturally, or ideologically linked to terrorism. There’s plenty of legitimate criticism to throw at Bush policies without having to stretch them to try and cover every unrelated issue.

  • Doug Hunter

    And the Burmese didn’t try and kill his dad….

  • moonraven

    And probably the food is too hot for his wimpy ass.

    LOVE Burmese food!

  • moonraven

    From the Reuters news service:

    “Two monks and a civilian were killed, hospital and monastery sources said, as decades of pent-up frustration at 45 years of unbroken military rule in the former Burma produced the largest crowds yet during a month of protests.

    Some witnesses estimated 100,000 people took to the streets on Wednesday despite fears of a repeat of the ruthless suppression of Myanmar’s last major uprising, in 1988, when soldiers opened fire, killing an estimated 3,000 people.”

  • Dr Dreadful

    Doug, when Saddam attacked Iran the US supported him. When he invaded Kuwait, he was kicked out in fairly short order and never tried anything similar again.

    When Bush was trying to garner support for invading Iraq, he accused Saddam of having WMDs. Those never showed up, so he tried to link the Saddam regime with 9/11 instead. That didn’t fly either, so he was left justifying the invasion on the grounds that Saddam was a Bad Man.

    So, if Bush is going to justify his international actions with simplistic grandstanding, he should expect criticism in kind.

  • moonraven

    Yep. He’s a Bad Man. He has killed 1.2 million Iraquis SO FAR.

    Saddam Hussein was an angel by comparison.

  • troll

    moonraven – to the extent that these deaths were caused by Americans they were caused by men and women who could have said ‘no’…by laying the blame on Bush you absolve the real culprits who drop the bombs and pull the triggers

    what was it that Pogo said – ?

  • moonraven

    Sorry, troll, but I consider that ALL of you are Bush.

    You bet you ALL could’ve said NO.

    But you get your rocks off killing people–and more so if they are not white-skinned.

    I ought to know.

    Hammock time is coming early today. See you.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Ah, the old collective guilt idea.

    Has MR perhaps been reading too much post-war German literature?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Hammock time is coming early today.

    Translation: they kicked her out of the internet café because her Tourette’s was disturbing the other customers…?

  • Clavos

    “But you get your rocks off killing people–and more so if they are not white-skinned.

    I ought to know.”

    I knew it!!

    She’s really a talking (or typing) corpse!

  • troll

    truer than you know what with the responsibility of hauling around all those murdered ancestors

  • moonraven

    Back in the 60s, yes, I wrote and published a lot of articles about post-war German literature.

    Hammock time comes early when I don’t feel like doing something else.

    As for carrying around dead ancestors–thank God I am not carrying around a bunch of redneck barbarians.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I wonder if I read any of your stuff when I was studying for my German A level. Where did you publish and on what authors?

  • moonraven

    The were all published in the US, doc, so I don’t know that you would have read them.

    Many were published at Univ. of Washington–the majority were in regard to the works of Böll and Grass.

    Dates were 1964-1966. Back in the dark ages.

    I did some translations after that in grad school (Goethe’s Roman Elegies and Venetian Epigrams), then only did some work in regard to Büchner.

  • Dr Dreadful

    So if I were to pootle across the road to the local university library, chances are they wouldn’t have them?

    I studied Max Frisch, Siegfried Lenz, Alfred Andersch and Thomas Mann. The first three all arose out of post-Hitlerian national soul-searching: collective guilt in Frisch’s and Lenz’s cases (hence my comment above), personal responsibility in Andersch’s. The Mann was about a youth who has a crush on his schoolmate – pretty standard for him, I suppose.

    We studied the texts in German but were allowed to write essays in English – although we still had to do the language part of the exam entirely in German.

    Bit different from the US system, I think, where people lurch out of high school barely able to speak English, let alone any other language!

  • Clavos

    “Bit different from the US system, I think, where people lurch out of high school barely able to speak English, let alone any other language!”

    Doc, You’ve actually met Americans who speak English???

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I pulled up the following from the Jerusalem Post about Burma. Note that jpost.com talks about Myanmar, not Burma….

    1. US imposes economic sanctions on officials of gov’nt of Myanmar
    [ 27/09 19:24 – INTERNATIONAL ]

    2. Myanmar gov’t: Nine killed in crackdown on pro-democracy protesters
    [ 27/09 16:16 updated 16:17 – INTERNATIONAL ]

    3. Myanmar regime orders protesters to disperse or face “extreme action”
    [ 27/09 09:49 updated 09:49 – INTERNATIONAL ]

    4. China’s Foreign Ministry: Myanmar should exercise restraint
    [ 27/09 09:00 – INTERNATIONAL ]

    5. UN expresses concern over Myanmar’s violent crackdown
    [ 27/09 05:15 updated 05:16 – INTERNATIONAL ]

  • moonraven

    I have no idea if you would find University of Washington journal publications from the mid-60s in your local university library.

    I lurched out of high school with a math and physics schoalrship–but I did have an offer of one in Classics, as the person who scored highest on the Washington State Latin exam. But I didn’t speak it….Did speak French in early childhood.

    Never formally studied German.

    Ever read novels by Austrian writer and professor, Klaus Hofer?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Doc, You’ve actually met Americans who speak English???

    I should clarify. We Brits speak English. You Yanks speak American. So no.

    It’s analagous to the oft-cited case of Welsh and Breton speakers being able to communicate. Different languages, but similar enough that each speaker can understand what the other is saying…


  • Dr Dreadful

    No, MR, never heard of him.

    The only Klaus Hofer I can find on Google is a professor of communications engineering at the University of Bielefeld, which is in Germany, not Austria.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Myanmar troops occupy Buddhist monasteries seen as centers of protest
    Associated Press

    Burmese soldiers have also shut off Burmese access to the internet….

    The question is whether this situation will escalate of not. If it does, it could be a very tragic story to cover. After years of repression, if the Burmese people rise up against the military, the soldiers had better turn and run. Tis cold turn into another Romania….