The untold story of the recent unrest in Burma has just been told told to the West.
Despite what most people have been told, the monks were not into revolution, and their protests were not pro-democracy. They were not trying to overthrow the government because they knew that to be impossible.
This was an economic argument, inflation in Burma is running high, the cost of petrol has skyrocketed since the government stopped subsiding, this has left the economy of Burma and its 48 million people, in a hellish downward spiral, so bad that the normally incredibly generous poor of the country are starving and can’t possibly give alms (food and other goods) to the monks, who otherwise have no way of getting food.
For a monk who has spent his entire life in mediation and contemplation on the teachings of Buddha there is no chance of leaving the monasteries to make a living, this lead to the protests. When they protested, they advised the civilian population not to join, and they never changed this advice. This was their fight, and it wasn’t people power, it was the fear of starvation that urged these monks out of silent contemplation.
The military junta had heard the monks message clearly “we need food!”, the protests were untouched, allowed, even tolerated by the regime in the first few days.
Western media reported that the monks were allowed to protest because of their “status” in Burmese Buddhist culture, but that is another media lie, the junta never cared about the monks “status”, they knew what they were protesting about, their no touch policy was probably because they were trying to figure out a way to feed the monks, or at least ask another country to do it.
However within 48 hours and using the terms of a PR firm, the monks “lost control of the message”.
Only when the Burmese people, and the rest of the world, started hearing the words “democracy protests” on BBC World Service and CNN, did the peaceful protest start turn nasty.
As the heat was turned up on the junta to step down, no less from the podium of the UN by George W Bush calling on “regime change”, the world got sucked into a side track issue about the barbaric Burmese regime. The agenda was meant to be about Climate Change and Iran, since Bush was weak in both area’s in an UN ambience, it fitted that the message in New York get changed to pro-democracy in Burma, as much as it did on Radio Free Asia.
The people in Burma hearing Bush on Voice of America in Burmese lost all local sense, and believing what they heard, America would stand up, and so started to march alongside, but out of step with the monks. After all who were they to trust, the local media, always full of propaganda, or the BBC?
With an ever “decreasing” numbers of monks and increasing pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Burmese cities, the Junta could tolerate no more! And the whole situation became violent.
No matter if the government knew the true intentions of the monks or not, to the world this was no longer about poverty it was about power, and the junta can not tolerate any attacks on their power, as the monks originally recognised.
The story ends with the monks removed from their monasteries, taken to universities and other government facilities, and -blamed for starting the fire, and unofficially as many as 1000 were killed and 2000 tortured as a result.
As a side note, Australia denounced the Junta’s policy also at the UN, and there was some tough short term talked about upping the sanctions on the country. But just a week later a report reveals that the Australian Federal Police has been teaching Burma’s military, counter terrorism techniques, some of those techniques would have been used on the monks. When the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was asked about this contradiction he said “We will not be shutting down this program, it is vital to our interests”
The people of Burma shake their heads, and wonder if anyone really gives a cracker about them. Burma is Asia’s political football, always part of the bigger picture. The power games of the west and South East Asia, USA and China, and Australia and Muslim Asia. It’s never about Burma.