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Truthdiggers of the Week: The Monks of Burma

Posted on Sep 28, 2007
monks marching in Burma
AP photo

As many as 100,000 anti-government protesters led by a phalanx of Buddhist monks marched through Yangon, the largest crowd to demonstrate in Burma’s biggest city since a 1988 pro-democracy uprising that was brutally crushed by the military.

For decades Burma’s ruling military junta has governed through terror, determined to meet dissent with intimidation, detention and murder. It is because of the military’s particular cruelty that the story of the Buddhist monks of Burma is so compelling.

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The last time the Burmese people stood up to their vicious government, thousands were killed. Perhaps remembering this tragedy, the monks of Burma asked others not to join them when they began marching and praying in protest.

But the momentum of their movement could not be denied, and as the number of marching monks exploded from dozens to thousands in a matter of days, Buddhist nuns joined in, quickly followed by thousands of other Burmese who had come to watch.

The military was slow to react at first but, true to its nature, has now returned to violence as a means of putting down peaceful dissent.

We may never know the true number of murdered civilians, or the fate of many monks and others who have been abducted. We do know that, despite arrests, tear gas, the closing of monasteries and flying bullets, the protest continues, at least for now.


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We salute the courage of the monks of Burma, who, knowing all too well the cost, defied their brutal government to lead this saffron revolution.

Related links: The BBC has a Burma protest primer, an analysis of whether the protest will succeed and a protest gallery. Human Rights Watch has the latest on Burma from a humanitarian perspective. The CIA World Factbook is a good place to go for statistics and basic information.

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By Tanvir, October 9, 2007 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Buddhist monks remind me of the people of Estonia when they revolted against the Russians in the late 80s, commonly known as the Singing Revolution.  I just saw a website about it – (this film is quite inspirational).  It takes an incredible amount of courage and will to revolt against a government.

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By flycatcher, October 3, 2007 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

I wonder how much more repression the Myanmar government needs to display before the Burmese government is placed on the list of “official terrorism-sponsoring nations” by the US State Department.  What—it doesn’t matter if the terrorism is carried out against your own people?  Is that the same logic we applied to Saddam’s Iraq before we went to war in Iraq?

That’s why I suspect that Myanmar is yet another destination for Amerika’s extraordinary rendition of Iraqi “enemy combatants”?  And that’s not so far-fetched.  Looks like the junta’s already passed the “audition” to me.

What if some day Myanmar becomes a point of rendition for political dissidents from this country?  Think the junta there will just roll out the red carpet for us?  If it’s red it’s probably from blood stains.

Meanwhile the US State Dept. posts on its website this watered down finger-wagging at Myanmar .  It’s worth a look.  [It would be worth a laugh, too, if Myanmar wasn’t such a miserable, repressive basket case]:

Cuba has a better human rights record than Myanmar and we have had an on-going embargo against it for almost 50 years.  Meanwhile, Amerika’s on-going “sanctions” against the Burmese government—listed by State—are a joke.  US trade missions routinely fly to Burma.  We need its tin and especially tungsten in addition to Chevron’s Burmese fossil fuels.  And what can’t be done directly under the sanctions can easily done via a 3rd party—as in Israel’s case.

The saddest thing is that the sanctions we HAVE carried out has reduced US funding for treating Myanmar’s TB and malaria patients—as well as HIV treatment and prevention.  We know the cut in HIV funding (especially) also serves to appease a Christian Right that is Bush’s only remaining power base.

And when is somebody gonna finally stand up at an AIPAC meeting and ask why Israel serves a conduit to states like Myanmar for American arms and military technology?  You’d think by now somebody would have developed a conscience about yet another example of Israel giving aid and comfort to state sponsored terrorism.

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By 1984, October 1, 2007 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i’m a little tired of the 60’s generation telling everyone to get up off their butts and protest. you call the younger generations lazy..etc. but the world i live in your generation formed….its just so much fun to have to listen to the hypocrisy that comes out your mouths everyday…sorry i didn’t get free love,or to burn my draft card while daddy was making arrangements for me to join the national guard…or stay in school so i didn’t have to serve… didn’t those druggie hippies spit on returning vets. calling them “babykillers”...oh yeah thats right its all the drugs… the 60’s generation did…you don’t remember…put your butts on the line…i do that every day at my job…where my ex hippie employer threatens our jobs,forces other employees to rat on one another to get ahead…and pays slave wages while telling us he’s paying us well and we should be grateful…but he’s broke because we just paid for   our boss to buy land and build a new house…wow the 60’s generation…sorry i’m i little tired of listening to your generation whine…when the 60’s people own up to there b.s. then you can call out my generation until then shut up…. om mani padme aum

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By Douglas Chalmers, October 1, 2007 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

“AUSTRALIA has taken a lead in the diplomatic war on Burma’s junta, refusing to accept a military commander as the rogue state’s new ambassador to Canberra….. Australia has rejected Rangoon’s request to appoint Brigadier-General Thura U Thet Oo Maung as the new ambassador because of the regime’s appalling behaviour.

At the time of the nomination earlier this year, General Maung was serving in the Burmese Army Command and had served in the military controlling the states of Shan and Karen, which are engaged in violent battles for independence from the repressive regime.

The Australian Government refused the Burmese nomination when it was made several months ago but it is now making a point of the rejection by publicly disclosing the rare diplomatic snub…...”,25197,22516505-601,00.html

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By Belinda, September 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

America….What will it take for everyone of us to stand up and PROTEST to the idiots in Washington that this type of behavior in Myanmar is NO different than that that they deemed evil by the Saddam regime. And to the heinous American Bipartisan SO-CALLED leadership: could you people please get a clue? People being shot in the streets?

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By Greg Bacon, September 30, 2007 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

Israel sold weapons to Myanmar Junta, then lies about the sales

Now hold on to your seats as this may come as a shock, but Israel has been lying thru its teeth about weapon sales to the Burma/Myanmar junta that is currently violently opposing a peaceful uprising, by shooting Buddhist monks.

The 9/29 Israel paper Ha’aretz carried entitled “Israel urges Myanmar gov’t to refrain from harming protesters.
The story stated that… ” Israel is concerned by the situation in Myanmar, and urges the government to demonstrate restraint…” And that “Israel denies selling weapons to Burma or Myanmar.”

Concerned about the situation or concerned that some of those Israeli weapons will be used to murder monks?

From the World War IV Report:

Israeli military aid to Burmese regime: Jane’s

Submitted by David Bloom on Sat, 09/29/2007 - 20:14.

The Burmese junta currently shooting unarmed protestors received a cynical plea for restraint from the Israel government on Sept. 29. According to the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, the Israeli foreign ministry announced “Israel is concerned by the situation in Myanmar, and urges the government to demonstrate restraint and refrain from harming demonstrators.” The article ended by pointing out that “Israel denies selling weapons to Burma or Myanmar.” (Ha’aretz, Sept. 29)

Not true, according a March 1, 2000 report in the authoritative British publication Jane’s Intelligence Review by William Ashton. The article, titled “Myanmar and Israel develop military,” details how Israeli companies and the Israeli government have been supplying and developing weapons for the Burmese regime, and sharing intelligence:

In August 1997 it was revealed that the Israeli defence manufacturing company Elbit had won a contract to upgrade Myanmar’s (then) three squadrons of Chinese-built F-7 fighters and FT-7 trainers. The F-7 is a derivative of the Mikoyan MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ jet fighter.

And to see proof of even more Israeli weapons sold to Myanmar’s ruling junta, like machine guns and artillery pieces, check out this article in JANE’s Intelligence Review.

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By Douglas Chalmers, September 30, 2007 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

The monks weren’t “leading” so much as putting themselves in harm’s way. If the people are already effectively in slavery, things can be made to be better. Doing nothing results in nothing - no pain, no gain!

If there is one thing for sure, Buddha spent his life tramping all over India teaching people how to be free. He also used his position (diplomatic immunity) as the son of a king to free as many slaves as possible. The local rulers hated him!!! 

Maung Zarni is founder of the Free Burma Coalition…... ‘Loving kindness’ will beat the generals - September 29: This coming together of Burma’s urban and rural communities will be deeply significant. The “Metta (or Loving Kindness) Army” of Buddhist monks that we have seen on our television screens snaking through the city streets have posed the greatest challenge to the Armed Forces since their creation in 1941. And to judge from the relatively low number of casualties since the protests began a month ago – as opposed to 3,000 killed in the 1988 popular uprising against General Ne Win – this revolt has proved itself both potent and pacifying…........

No matter how the current crisis on the streets is resolved, one thing is clear. Burma has changed. The public will reject resoundingly any false claims from the junta of “democratisation” when legitimate and peaceful political parties are not allowed to operate freely; or claims of “economic development” when there is no sign of reform. The monks are winning. A new dawn is on the horizon.

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By Jaded Prole, September 30, 2007 at 4:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If only we Americans had the commitment to take to the streets in mass against a criminal regime. . .

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By Verne Arnold, September 30, 2007 at 3:43 am Link to this comment

#103569 by craig90077 on 9/30 at 1:20 am
(6 comments total)

Actually, at this point in time, nothing would surprise me; who pray tell, are they?  I do know the finest jade comes from Burma.  The controllers of the jewelry market; this I don’t know.  I look forward to your reply.

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By craig90077, September 30, 2007 at 2:20 am Link to this comment

It is curious to note that Myanmar[Burma]is the among the world’s largest net-exporters of non-diamond type gemstones. When you want to get to the bottom of an issue always follow the money trail and you’ll find out just who is supporting the government and business interests in a particular country. Now ask urself who are associated and identified with as managing the gemstone and jewelry market(s) of the world?  (ru suprised?)

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By Thomas Billis, September 29, 2007 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

They have brave monks looking to free their country from repressive rule we have a monkey looking to take our country from freedom to repressive rule.Our monkey should be studying the Burma situation for two reasons 1} to see what a Democracy movement really looks like 2} how we as a freedom loving country can help to really promote a democratic movement.Not a throwaway in a speech to the UN not to talk about Iraq.Sanction like language is a sop.It never works.It really brought Sadam to his knees.President Monkey I implore you to put action where your mouth is on democracy.In a situation where we really can do some good please do not sit on your hands.In my heart I know this moron will be all talk and no real action.

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By KYJurisDoctor, September 29, 2007 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Burma: WE are with you. We ask for God’s guidance for your struggles.

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By srelf, September 29, 2007 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

I saw on Channel 9 last night in L.A. that Chevron is one of the main corporations doing business with the Burmese military government. One thing that everyone can do is write to Chevron and consider boycotting their stations.

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By Douglas Chalmers, September 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

Quote: “We hope that the Myanmar [Burmese] authorities and all other parties in Myanmar will appreciate the broader implications of their actions on the region as a whole and act accordingly.” Singapore foreign ministry, current Asean chair…..

Quote: “China hopes that all parties in Myanmar exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue so as to ensure the situation there does not escalate and get complicated, and does not influence the stability of Myanmar and the peace and stability of the region.” Chinese foreign ministry…...

Quote: “As a close and friendly neighbour, 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.” Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee…....

In what is essentially already a “complicated” scenario of repression and exploitation, the democracy enjoyed by other nations in the region is denied to Burma’s citizens. Your life in Burma is only worth the price of a bullet!

The monks marched peacefully, others demonstrated peacefully. Things only became messy - “escalate and get complicated” - when the military arrived and insisted on using force. The result was an escalation into shooting unarmed law-abiding citizens. and foreign journalists/photographers.

The “broader implication” is that the Buddhist religion is also being suppressed and that has consequences across South Asia and East Asia too. Those who think that they can take their wealth with them into the next world should watch the pigs of the regime - “Than Shwe’s daughter wedding” - note that the diamonds were said to be REAL!

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By John Borowski, September 29, 2007 at 11:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Will they ever learn? The Republicans (Aka Conservative right-wingers) want a freedom democracy, but only for the bad guys. (Good guys are those dictators they openly or covertly side with) What about the Democrats? These guys are really Republicans parading around in Democrat clothing. The British got tired of the real Democrats (They bugged them, sided with the working man too much) so they got rid of them. As a result the difference between the Republicans (Aka Conservative right-wingers) and the Democrats is hardly discernible.

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By Craig, September 29, 2007 at 11:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wouldn’t it be sump’n, in this the “land of the free and the brave”, if our spiritual leaders had the awareness, relevance, courage and integrity of Burma’s?

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By Verne Arnold, September 29, 2007 at 5:47 am Link to this comment

You know, I have a love/hate relationship with this site.  I no longer live in the states because of the apathy and just plain ignorance exhibited by my fellow citizens (for the last 6 years) and lip service from the bloggers/posters who just won’t go put their butts on the line as we did in the very late 60’s and very early 70’s.  No offence, but your not Gandhi or Vonnegut or King, nobody outside of this site is listening.
Now, truthdig; you have the ego to even comment on the situation in Myanmar.  As bad as it is, the U.S., France, China, Thailand, and many other countries that want nothing more than the vast gas reserves (trillions of cubic feet) and huge oil deposits (3 billion barrels), support this regime headed by General Shwe by paying this despot billions of dollars for the rights to their oil and gas!
God almighty, hypocrisy has reached new highs.  Some poster said the reason “we” ignore Myanmar/Burma is because they don’t have oil…it is this ignorance that makes me crazy…Americans are so ignorant of the real world around them it just defies belief.  Insular doesn’t even begin to define it. 
This rant is brought to you by 62 years of living the lie that is the U.S. of A.

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By peedeecee, September 28, 2007 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

There’s an excellent novel called The Lizard Cage, by Karen Connelly, that explains the situation in Burma very clearly. It will anger and depress you, but I think the story of Burma should become better known.

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By GrammaConcept, September 28, 2007 at 5:15 pm Link to this comment

.....May All Beings, Without One Exception,
Have Happiness, And The Causes Of Happiness…..

  -A Buddhist Prayer

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By Hank Van den Berg, September 28, 2007 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Now, will Americans also begin actively protesting their loss of democracy and Constitutional rights?  No, probably not; the risk of missing shopping, football, or whatever is too great here.

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