Friday, September 28, 2007

Myanmar's saffron revolution.

An editorial in the latest issue of The Economist calls the recent events in Myanmar "the saffron revolution," a title various other commentators have also used in reference to the protest movement led by Myanmar's Buddhist monks. " A news article in the same publication wonders whether this will be the moment when the world community finally decides to take action to save the people of Myanmar from the military rulers who have oppressed them for decades:
There are reckoned to be 400,000 monks in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), about the same as the number of soldiers under the ruling junta's command. The soldiers have the guns. The monks have the public's support and, judging from the past fortnight's protests, the courage and determination to defy the regime. But Myanmar's tragic recent history suggests that when an immovable junta meets unstoppable protests, much blood is spilled. In the last pro-democracy protests on this scale, in 1988, it took several rounds of massacres before the demonstrations finally subsided, leaving the regime as strong as ever. By September 27th, with a crackdown under way, and the first deaths from clashes with security forces, it seemed hard to imagine that things would be very different this time.

One genuine difference is that, in the age of the internet and digital cameras, images of the spectacular protests in Yangon, the main city, have spread at lightning speed across Myanmar itself, encouraging people in other towns to stage demonstrations of their own; and around the world, bringing the crisis to the attention of leaders as they gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. The remarkable images from Myanmar have meant that, for a while at least, a country that has been brutalised and pauperised by a callous and incompetent regime for 45 years has the attention it deserves.
As the New York Times reported earlier this afternoon, that Myanmar's army has already begun a massive crackdown on the monks and civilian protesters. Working with a number of Burmese refugees this summer, I learned a great deal about the brutality of the present regime and the great desire within the country for political change. My prayers are with the people of Myanmar in this time of great trial. May the leaders of the world listen to their cries and come to their aid. AMDG.


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