helen-louise (baratron) wrote,

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Real-life news: The situation in Burma.

I don't often make political posts, let alone posts about the politics of another country. But the situation in Burma makes all the trivial day-to-day crap of my life seem entirely unimportant.

I doubt many of you know much about Burma - as far as you're concerned, it's a random country in Asia, sandwiched between India and Thailand. The reason you won't know much about it is that it's governed by a military junta in a similar situation to North Korea. The current Burmese government seized power in a coup in 1962 and refused to yield that power to the winners of the only free and fair election in 1990. There has not been another election since, because the government knows that the people do not want it in charge. The woman who should be President of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest despite being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

The official name of the country, by the way, has been Myanmar (pronounced Me-ANN-mar) since 1989, but Burmese peace activists refuse to use that name as it was chosen by the military government. There are complicated issues and ethnic tensions surrounding the name, as there are numerous distinct "tribes" of people, of whom the principal are the Burmese, the Shan and the Karen. If you're at all familiar with the difficult politics in Eastern Europe following the collapse of Communism, the way that ethnic groups with different cultures and religions had been lumped together into one country - that's not entirely unlike the situation in Burma.

Daily life in Burma is atrocious - the BBC ran a series of articles about life Inside Burma last year. Ordinary people dare not speak out - the prize for doing so is "disappearance". The only people who can safely organise any sort of protest are the Buddhist monks. Monks are greatly revered within Burma so cannot easily be made to "disappear" - though they may face arrest and beatings from the military police.

The current wave of protests started when the government increased the price of fuel in August. The price of petrol and diesel doubled, while the price of compressed gas - used to power buses - increased five times. When ordinary people can barely afford to live as it is, an increase in the cost of transport will leave people in desperate straits. Transport is necessary to take people to work and school and to carry staple food products around the country.

Initial reports were good. The government did not respond to last week's protests. On Saturday, monks were allowed to visit Aung San Suu Kyi. Sunday's march was the largest in 20 years. I'd hoped this would become the first ever completely peaceful overthrow of government. (There's something to be said about Buddhist monks leading a non-violent revolution.)

However, today's news is this: the military junta has warned it is ready to "take action" against the monks and other protesters.

If you are a praying sort of person, pray for the situation. Pray for a peaceful stepping down of the military regime and restoration of a fair and democratic government.  If you aren't a praying sort of person, send energy or positive thoughts. And whether you are religious or not, tell other people what is happening so they can pray or send energy or positive thoughts. (Yes, of course you may link to my post.)

As far as I know, there is still no safe way to send aid into the country. If you send money, it gets taken by the government to fund their projects, like randomly building a new state capital. All we can send is hope and strength for the people.
Tags: burma, links, politics

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