People’s resistance in Burma

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.

  1. 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:

    WASHINGTON – Satellite images confirm reports of burned villages, forced relocations and other human-rights abuses in Myanmar, scientists said on Friday.

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science said the high-resolution photographs taken by commercial satellites document a growing military presence at 25 sites across eastern Myanmar, matching eyewitness reports.

    “We found evidence of 18 villages that essentially disappeared,” AAAS researcher Lars Bromley said in an interview.

    “We got reporting in late April that a set of villages in Karen state had been burned. We were actually able to identify burn scars on the ground — square-shaped burn scars the size of houses,” Bromley added.


    The AAAS said its images corroborate reports filed by refugees and human rights groups, who say abuses have been going on in many parts of the country for years.

    Bromley’s group got funding from the Open Society Institute and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to book satellite time over Burma and to buy archived images.

    “If an attack was reported in a certain area and that attack was said to have destroyed a village or certain villages, we looked for satellite images before and after the date of attack,” Bromley said.

    “We literally scroll through them inch by inch and look for villages that essentially disappeared.”

    They also found evidence of “forest relocation — where a lot of people are taken from more remote areas and forced to build homes in areas under control of the military government,” Bromley said.

    “In one area around a military camp that we spotted, there were about 31 villages that popped up in a space of about 5 1/2 years. That is either an incredible baby boom or some sort of targeted development program or, because we have no information on either of those, the forest relocation would be a logical candidate,” he said.

    The AAAS has used the same technology to document destruction in Sudan’s Darfur region and Zimbabwe.

    Bromley said the satellite data is not complete or detailed enough to show anything happening in real time, such as the burning of a village. “All we are doing is verifying and quantifying,” he said.

    The AAAS worked with three human rights groups to follow up on descriptions of more than 70 instances of human rights violations from mid-2006 through early 2007 in eastern Burma’s Karen state and surrounding regions.

    It was not easy — the satellites are only rarely over Myanmar, there is often cloud cover and the lush forest grows quickly to mask evidence of damage.

    But they got images of the locations of 31 reported events and were able to corroborate reports of human rights violations at 25 of them.

    Governments such as the United States likely have had this information, Bromley said.

    “But if someone in the State Department or in the Department of Defense was looking at this imagery for Burma and seeing atrocities in process would they be able to talk about it?” he asked.