The Democratic Voice of Burma website reports that army troops attempting to raid monasteries in Rangoon and Mandalay were forced to withdraw by local residents Sept. 27. Troops approaching the monasteries backed off after locals armed with sticks and slingshots barred their way. Residents reportedly set up an alert system, banging pots and pans at the approach of soldiers. Monasteries have been raided in Mandalay, Masoyein, Mya Taung, Veitthudayon, Phayagyi and Dhammikarama. (DVB, Sept. 25) Protests continue in Rangoon today, bringing some 20,000 to the streets despite a heavy military presence and repression which has left an unknown number dead. (DVB, Sept. 24)
The junta’s official death toll of 10 in the crackdown over the past two days is questioned by Australia’s ambassador in Rangoon, Bob Davis. “The authorities on state television last night admitted that 10 people had been killed, including a foreign national, who in fact is a Japanese national,” Davis told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “We have unconfirmed reports that a significantly larger number were killed when the military opened fire on crowds yesterday in Rangoon.” (The Australian, Sept. 29)
Reliable information is further hindered by the fact that the junta has apparently cut Internet access in Burma, shutting down the country’s state-controlled ISP under the pretext of a damaged underwater cable. (VNunet, Sept. 28)
Many privately-owned news journals in Burma have decided to stop publication in protest of official demands to publish pro-government propaganda blaming the All Burma Student’s Democratic Front and National League for Democracy for the protests. Kumudra, Seven Days, Pyi Myanmar and many other journals have suspended publication. The journals’ official notices of suspension to the censor board generally say the ongoing instability is preventing journalists from being able to report. (DVB, Sept. 24)
A statement issued by Minister for Religious Affairs Brig-Gen Thura Myint Maung explicitly accuses the democracy movement of being a pawn of foreign powers (by clear implication, the US)—and also explicitly invokes the beheadings of monks in the aftermath of the 1988 uprising:
Some global powers who practise hegemonism totally dislike the proposed Constitution as it contains stipulations assuring self-determination and prohibiting the stationing of foreign troops on Myanmar soil. Hence, those powers in collusion with a group of destructionists from inside the nation are stirring up disturbances.
The protest walk occurring in Myanmar is one of the plots systematically manipulated from abroad.
Internal and external destructionists do not even spare the religion if it is in their interest. They dare instigate young monks, who are trying hard in the religious studies, to stage street protests.
First, those internal and external saboteurs tried to penetrate and instigate students, workers and the public. The people who still remember the beheadings of persons of own race alive in crowded places during 1988 unrest due to their instigation are against unrest. Hence, the people are able to resist all agitations.
In 2003, US Congressional testimony by Burmese dissidents named Thura Myint Maung as having ordered massacres during the 1988 repression. (Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, Sept. 25)
See our last post on Burma.
Satellites document ethnic cleansing in Burma
The unrest and repression in Burma’s cities may bring new international attention to the regime’s ethnic cleansing in remote and rural areas of the country, which has been ongoing for years with little note from the world media. In a program already being used to monitor the genocide in Darfur, rights groups are making satellite data available to document the destruction of peasant villages by the army. From Reuters, Sept. 28: