Thursday, October 25, 2007

Myanmar: Monks and the Military

The Nation

posted October 25, 2007 (web only)

Charles London

When the military junta ruling Burma cut the country's Internet connection to the rest of the world September 28, it acted to return Burma's prodemocracy activists and politically minded monks to an information environment similar to that of 1988. Internet cafes throughout Rangoon were shut down, and the marchers found themselves in roughly the same position as those antigovernment protesters of twenty years ago--removed from the public eye. In 1988 the military government's crackdown on student protests left 3,000 people dead. When protest marches started in August 2007, everyone feared the worst. As one Rangoon resident explained, "In '88, Sule Paya [a sacred Buddhist shrine in the center of the city] was covered in blood. This time will be the same." There was one crucial difference this time. Monks, rather than democracy activists or students, were the ones taking to the streets on behalf of the Burmese people. They did not march for the political process or for a particular ideology. They marched because the people were hungry.

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