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Monday, October 1, 2007

Stand with Burmese People

Stand with the Burmese People

I was listening to the Public Broadcasting on the subject, and am saddened with our civilization, particularly, our role in the world. Respect for human life is declining; the terrorists are one side killing hundreds and the civilized nations on the other hand killing millions.

We still have dictatorships, monarchies, fascists, communist and theocracies around. Shouldn't we declare a war on ignorance? Shouldn't we spend the money on education rather than destruction?

What is happening in Burma is sad, the sparkle of goodness is that the Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others are standing by in the support of the Monks. The least we can do is sign a petition of support.

I have just signed the petition, it is your turn now at 272,000, we need 500,000 signatures

http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_burma/tf.php?cl_tf_sign=1
Here are a few Burma Stories:
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1. Beyond Rangoon - Washingtonnote.com
2. Burma Special - Newsweek - UN envoy will stay
3. India's Burma Silence
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Beyond Rangoon: Stories Beneath the Surface of Myanmar Reporting
http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/

As all eyes turn to Myanmar with brutal crackdowns by the military junta (including reports of a Japanese reporter murdered and school children being fired upon), international condemnations, speculation of a "saffron revolution," and China caught between a policy of noninterference and brutal crackdown on its borders that could turn into a public relations disaster, there are stories at the micro-political level that deserve to be highlighted for the inspiration they might offer.

First, the role that technology has played in both mobilizing and broadcasting this information to the rest of the world through cell phones and the internet. News reports abound on the process of gathering reports in Myanmar as much as the actual reports of the brutal crackdowns by the military junta. The Democratic Voice of Burma has been praised for its role at the helm of collecting, hosting, and distributing information from the myriad of reports electronically smuggled out of the country. Despite the internet crackdown which The New York Times The Lede is reporting on, information is still apears to be making its way through to blogs like Global Voices and the Cbox aggregator of on-the-ground reports.

Just like the protests against a chemical plant organized by text messages in China a few months ago, this is not the story of technological triumphalism, but rather, of little victories that are applying pressures and compelling governments and international actors to move in certain, sometimes constructive ways.

The second story that needs be told (and I hope gets reported on more) is the bonds of solidarity formed between the monks and local residents. The lead editorial of the Asahi Shimbun reads:

Sharp increases in the prices of gasoline and other items on Aug. 15 sparked the demonstrations. The price hikes caused bus fares and other fees to soar, hitting the pocketbooks of ordinary citizens. Monks who rely on alms stood up in protest on behalf of the citizens. (...)
In Myanmar, it is customary for men to enter the priesthood at least once during their lifetime. As writer Michio Takeyama (1903-1984) described in his novel "Biruma no Tategoto" (The Harp of Burma), Buddhism is the spiritual mainstay of the people. The fact that monks, who distance themselves from mundane affairs, stood up in protest shows just how precarious everyday civilian life has become.

In return, DVB is reporting that local residents of all religions have been defending Bhuddist monks and thwarting attacks on monasteries, which have been targeted by the military:

In Rangoon, troops encountered resistance from local residents as they approached Sasana Alin Yaung, Sanana Wuntha and Min Nanda monasteries in Daw Pon and Tharkayta townships.
At Min Nanda monastery, which backs on to Pazuntaung creek, troops tried to approach from both land and water but retreated when they saw the strength of local resistance.

"There were not only Buddhist people but also Muslims, Christians and Hindus defending the monasteries," said a resident of Tharkayta township.

A similar story has been played out in other townships in Burma, as residents take action to resist government raids on monasteries.

Despite the much ballyhooed cedar, rose, and orange revolutions that turned out to be far more complex power struggles rather than purely democratic revolutions, there appears to be something qualitatively different about what is happening in Myanmar right now -- a much more organic galvanization of the population -- though I think we lack sufficient information to substantiate it. Nevertheless, the accounts above should provide sufficient cause to hope that a new social contract will arise out the battle unfolding in the country.

--Sameer Lalwani
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http://www.newsdeskspecial.co.uk/burma/
UN envoy will stay until junta leaders talk

Mystery surrounds the generals’ absence from yesterday’s talks
Ibrahim Gambari, UN special envoy, was due to make a second attempt today to meet Burma's two top junta generals, Than Shwe and his deputy, Maung Aye, who avoided a meeting yesterday in their remote, sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, on Sunday. No reason was given for their absence, writes Edward Loxton.

"Than Shwe and Maung Aye have been accused of snubbing Gambari, the United Nations and the world community, but it could be more complicated than that," said one prominent exile leader, who requested anonymity.

Mystery surrounds the generals’ absence from yesterday’s talks, writes edward loxton
Ibrahim Gambari, UN special envoy, was due to make a second attempt today to meet Burma's two top junta generals, Than Shwe and his deputy, Maung Aye, who avoided a meeting yesterday in their remote, sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, on Sunday. No reason was given for their absence.

"Than Shwe and Maung Aye have been accused of snubbing Gambari, the United Nations and the world community, but it could be more complicated than that," said one prominent exile leader, who requested anonymity.

"Look at it this way: if there is disagreement between Than Shwe and Maung Aye over how to handle the crisis, the appearance of one or the other at a vital meeting with Gambari would send important signals.

"If Than Shwe appears alone, Maung Aye is out of the picture and Burma descends into deeper disorder and even greater isolation. If Maung Aye appears alone, Than Shwe has been deposed and a newer, more pragmatic policy could emerge."

The UN has indicated that Gambari will insist on staying in Burma until he has seen the two men. He met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a government guesthouse in Rangoon on Sunday, but no details have emerged of their 90-minute encounter.

Reports hardened today that the army's divisional commanders of Rangoon and Mandalay have been sacked because of their opposition to the use of force on anti-government protesters, particularly monks.

"There's clearly dissatisfaction at the effect the bloodshed will have on Burma's image," said the exile leader. "We are hoping that the dissatisfaction will spread through army ranks and lead to the overthrow of Than Shwe."

Rangoon and other cities were relatively quiet this morning. Thousands of troops were deployed around most monasteries, where monks were virtually being held prisoner.

Burma is closed to foreign reporters. Edward Loxton is reporting for The First Post from Chiang Mai in neighbouring Thailand.
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http://www.newsdeskspecial.co.uk/burma/
Junta ‘shows disdain for international opinion’; resident talks of bloodbath in Rangoon
Burma’s two junta leaders, General Than Shwe and his deputy, General Maung Aye, both snubbed UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari when he flew to their sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, today for talks to solve the crisis now shaking the country, writes Edward Loxton from Thailand.Observers said the absence of the two leaders from talks Gambari held with lower-ranking military officers did not necessarily represent evidence of a split in the regime. “It’s a snub,” said Burma expert Bertil Lintner, author of several books on the country. “The regime is showing its utter disdain for international opinion.”
Burma’s two junta leaders, General Than Shwe and his deputy, General Maung Aye, both snubbed UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari when he flew to their sealed-off capital, Naypyidaw, today for talks to solve the crisis now shaking the country, writes Edward Loxton from Thailand.Observers said the absence of the two leaders from talks Gambari held with lower-ranking military officers did not necessarily represent evidence of a split in the regime. “It’s a snub,” said Burma expert Bertil Lintner, author of several books on the country. “The regime is showing its utter disdain for international opinion.”

Gambari also met in Rangoon with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was taken from her home, where she has spent a total of 11 years under house arrest, to a government guesthouse for the encounter. No details emerged on their talks.Meanwhile, a Burmese businesswoman back in Thailand from a visit to her parents in Mandalay, said it was rumoured that two key generals, including Mandalay’s commander, Kin Zaw, and a Rangoon divisional commander, Hla Htay Oo, had been relieved of their duties. Both were said to have opposed the use of force against monks.In continuing raids on the country’s Bhuddist monks, troops stormed several waterside monasteries from naval vessels patrolling the Rangoon River. “The violence and the looting is on a dreadful scale,” said one resident. “Troops are breaking their way in and lashing out indiscriminately. It’s a bloodbath. When is the world going to act to stop it?”
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India's Burma Silence
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1666859,00.html
We expect China to go easy on thuggish dictatorships such as Burma's because China is a dictatorship itself. But what about Asia's other rising power India, the world's biggest democracy? Surely Delhi has joined the rest of the world in condemning Burma's violent crackdown on anti-government protesters over the past few days.
Well, no. Despite pressure from Europe and the U.S. for India to use its influence with Burma to help end the bloodshed, Delhi has taken a softly, softly approach to the current crisis for the same reasons China has: potential trade with and influence over the energy-rich Southeast Asian nation. "We are concerned at the situation in Myanmar and are monitoring it closely. It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue," said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the single short public statement he has made on the subject so far. "As a close and friendly neighbor, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of the people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform. Myanmar's process of national reconciliation initiated by the authorities should be expedited."

That's a long way from the days when India backed the pro-democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi, the celebrated opposition leader who, in 1993, Delhi awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award. Within years, India had begun wooing Burma's junta, a relationship publicly cemented when strongman Than Shwe visited India in 2004.

Delhi's strategy is threefold. Its initial overtures to Burma's military leaders came as India faced a growing insurgency in its northeast. Many of the rebel groups in that region are based and train across the border in Burma. As India has grown friendlier with Burma's generals the two countries have worked together — with some limited success — on eradicating the northeastern insurgents.
Like China, power-hungry India is also keen on exploiting Burma's huge oil and gas resources. This month it signed a production deal for three deep-water exploration blocks off the Rakhine coast. It is also searching for gas in two other blocks. Access to Burma's resources will help boost India's power supplies but it is important for geopolitical reasons as well. The new production deal comes only months after Beijing beat Delhi on securing a deal to build a pipeline through to Burma's gas fields. The race for resources has helped make Burma the frontline in a larger struggle for influence in Southeast Asia. The threat of unfettered Chinese influence in Burma is one of Delhi's main ripostes when western allies question India's ties with Rangoon.

Will such a stance hurt India's democratic credentials? India's former Defense Minister George Fernandez, a longtime supporter of Burmese democracy activists, thinks so, calling such quiet diplomacy "disgusting." "This government is not concerned with what is happening in its own neighborhood," he says. In one of the few Indian newspaper opinion pieces to question India's stance Karan Thapar asked in the Hindustan Times last week whether a "Cat got our tongue?" "Indian democracy has shrunk because of its unwillingness to speak out," he wrote.

But don't expect to hear Delhi start shouting any time soon. "We have already reacted with a statement and that's all we have to say," an Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman told TIME two days after his minister's only four sentences on the crisis. "We are monitoring the situation and if the situation develops we will act appropriately. But I can't get as to when."

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