Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Burma: Standing Up with the Felonious Monks of Myanmar

Breaking News Update September 27th:

The dreaded violent crackdown by the military junta in Burma is in full swing. CNN International and other major news networks report that the military has opened fire indiscriminately on crowds of protesters and bystanders with automatic weapons yesterday and today. In an effort to corral and silence the 1000’s of Buddhist monks in the capital Rangoon and elsewhere across the country the junta has rounded up hundreds of monks and carted them away in trucks for questioning (beatings and torture).

Thousands more have been locked into monasteries and temples overnight to prevent the monks and nuns from hitting the streets today and going unedited into the World Live Web (the blogosphere). Myanmar security forces are presumably working feverishly to filter and/or shut down Internet access and close Internet cafes in order to stop the images and reports of their brutality against innocent monks and peaceful protestors from reaching the world’s eyes and ears. All to no avail for the mob (the bloggers of the world) have got wind of the atrocities and are all over this story.

What is also interesting to see is that news editors and producers have (finally) woken up to the fact that the world’s bloggers can be very helpful in a crisis like this where the professional media and press have been totally barred from reporting inside of a severely oppressed country like Burma. CNN TV anchors today are using text, photos, and interviews obtained from citizen journalists and blog authors who are on the ground inside of Burma as well as from people in the region and around the world.

In the online report ‘Myanmar junta intensifies crackdown’ the staff writer references the Burma and SE Asian news website The Irrawaddy but unfortunately links to the wrong URL. I notified about this error more than one hour ago but the website editors have not yet fixed the problem. The correct URL for The Irrawaddy News website is The Irrawaddy has exclusive breaking news and eyewitness reports about the crisis in Burma and is also asking CJ’s and bloggers to contribute their reports and photos. published the article Monks vs. Police in Burma, an eyewitness account of the battle for Shwedagon Pagoda, the centuries-old golden domed Buddhist shrine that sits at the heart of Rangoon built by the Mon people sometime between the 6th and 10th Century (500-900 AD). This ancient holy shrine is now cordoned-off by a ring of government soldiers and riot police presumably with the orders to shoot to kill. Here is an excerpt from TIME about the Battle for Shwedagon:

“The battle for Shwedagon began in ferocious noonday heat. The authorities had locked the gates of the pagoda, Rangoon's most famous landmark, by mid-morning to prevent the monks who had led the weeklong demonstrations against Burma's military rulers from gathering. Police and soldiers guarded the entrances. The eastern gate of Shwedagon is where thousands of monks would otherwise exit to start their march into downtown Rangoon. But today, hundreds of soldiers and riot police blocked their way.

By 12:30 p.m., hundreds of monks, students, and other Rangoon residents approached the police, stood in the road and began to pray. Then the soldiers and police began pulling monks from the crowd, targeting the leaders, striking both monks and ordinary people with canes. Several smoke bombs exploded and the riot police charged. The monks and others fought back with sticks and rocks. Many others ran, perhaps four or five of them bleeding from minor head wounds. A car was set alight — by the soldiers, some protesters claimed — and then there was the unmistakable crack of live ammunition: the soldiers were shooting into the air.

"They are not Buddhists," cried one student, who clutched half a brick in his hand, running from the smoke. "They are not humans. We were praying peacefully and they beat us. They beat the monks, even the old ones." An 80-year-old monk stood with the student, bleeding from a baton gash on his shaven head. “

End excerpt. Read the complete story.

Also checkout the photo essay Burma: 19 Years of Protest.

Another great source for reliable up-to-the-minute news and commentary about the political crisis in Burma is from the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma website. The DVB is a non-profit media organization that provides unbiased and accurate news to the people of Burma (and the world) via radio broadcasts and the Internet.

O.K., that’s it for today. I’m out of here for now.


Original post from September 26th

Today I had planned to post about a conference for black European women opening in Vienna, Austria but the images of protests coming out of Myanmar (Burma) are so powerful and inspiring that I feel I must say something about it right now.

Much of the world news this week has been dominated by the UN General Assembly meeting in New York City where over 100 “world leaders” are in attendance for the ceremonies and speeches about everything from the floods in Africa and climate change emergencies to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s disastrous and ridiculous debut at Columbia University.

But today the world’s attention is riveted to news about the 10’s of thousands of humble Buddhist monks and nuns and citizens of the oppressed nation of Myanmar who have decided that they have had enough of the brutal military regime that has ruled over them for more than 40 years. A regime that has robbed and raped the nation of Burma of precious natural resources until there is almost nothing left.

My message is for you, the defiant monks and religious leaders and citizens marching in Myanmar and those in the Burmese diaspora around the world:

Your courageous defiance of the military junta and their henchmen as you march peacefully by the thousands through the rain-soaked streets of Yangoon (Rangoon) and Mandalay and cities and towns across your country, this act has inspired millions of people around the world. We are watching and reading every bit of news that you can get out of the country at great risk to your very lives.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that many of Burma’s revered religious leaders and activists for democracy and justice will face severe punishment from the government soldiers and the police, perhaps even death. But unlike the violence by the regime against the students and citizens of Myanmar during the uprising of 1988 that took more than 3,000 lives, today the world is listening and watching closely thanks to your bravery and embracing of new technologies such as mobile phones and cameras and access to the Internet. This time the two-legged cockroaches that have caused so much suffering in your country for so long cannot hide behind news blackouts and the brutal suppression of free speech and a free press in Myanmar. This time you the people are both the newsmakers and the news reporters and the world can follow your every word and action LIVE as it happens.

I stand with the people of Burma today and everyday until you have thrown off the chains of brutal slavery and oppression. Live free or die trying to be free from this oppression; resist and defy peacefully. People who are suffering just like you under repressive regimes the world over can learn a great deal from your courage and peaceful resistance and your sacrifice in blood for a democratic and just future for your nation.

Many of the world’s leaders who have assembled themselves at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to loudly declare their support for human and civil rights and democratic values, rights that the people of Burma have yearned for for so very long, must hang their heads in shame before a world audience due to their collective paralysis to support you now in your desperate time of need with meaningful actions and measures against Burma's military dictatorship.

All decent and freedom-loving citizens of the world must stand up with the people of Burma in their fight for freedom from oppression and injustice. Victory in the end will surely be yours, you the good and great people of Myanmar.

Related articles and online resources:

Bush announces new US sanctions on Myanmar
China quietly reaches out to Myanmar opposition
FACTBOX – Global reaction to Myanmar protests
Chronology – 45 years of resistance and repression in Myanmar

Technology puts Myanmar protests in international eye

Associated Press
China nudges Myanmar on protests

CNN International
Myanmar crackdown, monks killed (text and video)

TIME Magazine
The Fighting Monks of Burma
Burma’s Military Solution

BBC News
Chinese dilemma over Burma protests
Burma’s hardline generals (news and opinions on Burma from around the world) (the human rights video journalism website)
Shoot on Sight: the ongoing military junta offensive against civilians in Eastern Burma

Global Voices Online
Myanmar: Voices from the region (reports from bloggers in SE Asia)
Myanmar (Burma) blog archives

Open Society Institute (Washington D.C.)
Burma Project / Southeast Asia initiatives

IPI – International Press Institute
World Press Freedom Review – Burma 2006

Xinhua News Agency (Chinese government-controlled news)
Myanmar issues curfew order in Yangoon
China believes Myanmar government can handle the situation

Myanmar (Burma) at Wikipedia

Profile of Burmese democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi

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Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this mssg! in solidarity, NY

Blackgirl On Mars said...

Thanks for posting this...I would love to present a link to your blog from my blog. Is this ok?

BRE said...

Dear Lesley-Ann,

Of course it would be O.K. In fact, it would be an honor. CNN International's Your World Today anchors (Jonathan Mann and Colleen McEdwards) are using our (bloggers) stuff for their reporting about Burma tonight, why shouldn't you?

Help get the word out that people around the world are totally pissed-off about the Junta in the Jungle beating up on Buddhist monks and nuns and innocent people in Burma. Totally!

Robert Mugabe needs to be taking some detailed notes on this breaking story too so he will know what he should not to do anymore when he gets back home to Zimbabwe.