Myanmar: Junta Cuts The Line, People Crank The Volume Up
Protests turn to hit & run confrontation as people follow monks into the streets
Following two days of violent suppression and mass-arrest of Buddhist monks that left at least 13 and as many as 35 dead, workers and students took to the streets of Yangon Friday to continue protests in defiance of a mid-day curfew.
Taunting Police across barbwire barricades erected to cordon-off the area surrounding the Sule Pagoda in central Yangon, protesters outraged at the beatings and mistreatment of monks pushed the limits but remained non-violent, retreating to back streets when Police charged, reportedly shooting rubber bullets.
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AP reports sporadic protests throughout the day with the largest organized march limited to approximately 500 people.
With numerous Buddhist leaders under arrest, political activists and student leaders have stepped-up activities and a coalition with dissident monks has been reported.
Since the Junta cut Internet service and severely restricted Telecom, news from inside Myanmar slowed to a trickle. Foreign media and humanitarian organizations within the country are now under heavy surveillance, but dissident groups and ordinary citizens are still passing news by alternative means.
A few dissident blogs such as Cbox and Burma Genocide are posting messages and photos as available, and these suggest the Junta is continuing to raid Buddhist monasteries overnight including shootings, but it is impossible to verify the accuracy of reports. If you choose to monitor these sites please restrict your airtime as bandwidth is limited and these are vital information pipelines in/out of the country.
Meanwhile, international response to the crisis escalated:
– The Junta agreed to receive UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari who is set to arrive from Singapore Saturday.
– Sympathetic rallies were held in cities across Asia and Australia Friday with marchers wearing red shits to symbolize the bloodshed. Marchers in Bangkok, Canberra, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Phnom Penh and Singapore numbered in the hundreds to low thousands.
– Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda stated no intention to impose further sanctions against Myanmar citing humanitarian concerns, however, he phoned Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who assured him China will exercise it’s influence. US President George Bush also urge China to continue it’s support.
From what I have researched through Chinese sources, the situation seems to be worsening and appears to be at a critical juncture in terms of pressure on the Junta and their escalating response. Working through sources in Hong Kong and Singapore I’ve heard reports that death tolls could be as high as 100 with the suppression of Buddhist activists intensifying. However, most news at this point is word of mouth through SMS, blogs or mobile phones and it’s impossible verify accuracy, so I suggest to continue relying on MSM sources who have deeper and more reliable sources in the diplomatic community.
Some updated links
I would also like to briefly comment on Thursdays [Washington Post Editorial ], which suggests any further bloodshed in Myanmar would be the responsibility of Russia and China since they refused to agree to UN Security Council sanctions, as if they would be effective in stopping a Junta with a 45 year history of violent political repression.
This is not only irresponsible grandstanding, but distracting and counter-productive in a situation where diplomacy by China supporting the pending UN Special Envoy, who represents the global community, offers the best chance to persuade the Junta to back-down.
China has been pressuring Myanmar for moths to proceed with social and economic reforms to no avail. The fact that China chooses to stay engaged offers a pipeline for negotiations that could save lives – so please, Sirs, save your words for another day.
Peace in our time.