ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Myanmar: Monks versus Military

The protest by tens of thousands of Buddhist monks in Myanmar, which was initially against a vefold increase in fuel prices, has rapidly metamorphosed into a pro-democracy movement. The nearly month-long “strategic tolerance” of the Than Shwe military government ended earlier this week and in a country where the monks are held in extreme reverence the dictatorship seems to have had no second thoughts in asking the army to re at the unarmed protestors. The shootings have, at the time of writing, left nine protestors dead (according to groups within Myanmar), and the country is now under a 60-day curfew.

Inevitably, comparisons are being drawn between the present movement and that of 1988 which was led by university students and ended with 3,000 protestors being killed by the army. Many of the leaders of that agitation, now in exile, have found their hopes revived by the monks and a number of artists and medical professionals are openly supporting the monks. The seemingly small act of Nobel Peace laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi stepping into the compound of her house where she has been imprisoned for over 11 years and folding her hands in obeisance to the marching monks was of enormous symbolic signicance in rallying the protestors. With gags on the press, news about Myanmar is scarce and the world has to depend on informal groups and the internet for information. Various branches of the Burma Campaign in a number of countries and the self-styled government-in-exile, the Washington-based National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, have also been using the internet and blogs to disseminate information about the conditions in the country.

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