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Real-life news: The situation in Burma

Discussion in 'Small Talk' started by baratron, Sep 25, 2007.

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  1. baratron

    baratron Moderator of Elder Scrolls
    Staff Member Moderator

    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 crap of my life seem really 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.

    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.
     
  2. Well said Baratron!

    This forum isn't exactly the prime place to generate awareness but it's awesome that you're doing things like this.

    We can also do more than send positive feelings to support these people. I've recently signed this online petition at http://www.avaaz.org/en/.

    Any chance we have to support non-violent change is a chance we should probably look to take. I mean, look at the petition, I'm sure I've never heard of Avaaz.org before but it doesn't seem a dodgy site so what is the worst that could result from giving it a click. Even if the petition never reaches the people the simple spreading of awareness is always a good thing. Every little will help hopefully.
     
  3. Prof. Cinders

    Prof. Cinders Mathemagician
    Staff Member Administrator

    I only heard about the situation this morning from my form tutor, and I had no idea about what the government said today... My old form tutor a few years ago came from Burma, and he could hardly go out there without being harrassed.

    I know the monks are greatly respected, so maybe the government will listen to them. I hope so, anyway. >>" THat stuff about the petrol's absolutely ridiculous - did they even have a reason for it? The things people do today... Gah, unbelievable.

    All power to the monks.
     
  4. Non-violent change is cool and all, but how would you plan to go on about it quickly? I sympathize with their plight, but I don't think signing a petition will do anything at all to change anything.
     
  5. baratron

    baratron Moderator of Elder Scrolls
    Staff Member Moderator

    Currently, this is the top story on the BBC's news site: Burma's military leaders have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the main cities Rangoon and Mandalay. Armed troops have now been deployed. As well as the night-time curfew there is also a ban on "gatherings of more than 5 people".

    Whatever else may be wrong with George W Bush, I approve of his current stance. He has said that the US is "outraged" by Burma's human rights record and announced further sanctions.

    Sanctions from the US are, however, unlikely to have much influence without China and India, Burma's main trading partners getting involved. China has remained largely silent about the current protests. However, with next year's Olympics taking place in Beijing, the Chinese government has something of a dilemma.

    Links:
    New photos of the protests.
    This launches a media player to watch President Bush speak on the subject.
    This launches a media player to watch footage of the protests.

    What can you do?
    • Pray / send positive energy / thoughts for strength.
    • Tell other people what is happening. Link to the BBC or Wikipedia or other relatively unbiased news sources.
    • US people: Write to your senators or state representatives to let them know you are pleased with the decision for sanctions. (This will work especially well if both you & your state representative are non-Bush supporters normally.)
    • UK people: Contact your MP to register your concern for the situation and request the Government speak out/impose sanctions against the military junta. Find out who your MP is & get their email address.
    • If you are under 18, ask your parent/s to write on your behalf. It only need take 5-10 minutes to send an email to your elected government official.

    Suggestions of who to contact / lists of email addresses of elected officials in various countries would be helpful and I'll post them when I have them.
     
  6. Prof. Cinders

    Prof. Cinders Mathemagician
    Staff Member Administrator

  7. Linkachu

    Linkachu Hero of Pizza
    Staff Member Administrator

    Nothing's stopping it from being that. People just don't post the news to generate ;p

    Anyways, I admit to not have been following this situation much (mainly because I don't watch, listen to, or read the news), but the bloody retaliation by military or governmental powers seemed inevitable to me. I'm sure the military is trying their hardest to keep all of this under wraps, so I'm glad the information has managed to get out in the open. But what are we do about it but empathize and pray and be reminded once again how sick some humans can be? I doubt these monks want our pity, so I'll give them my respect instead.

    Sorry, just spouting random thoughts here that don't hold much weight. I can't help but think back to past massacres of 'peaceful protests' whenever I read news like this, and it makes my blood boil.
     
  8. baratron

    baratron Moderator of Elder Scrolls
    Staff Member Moderator

    Haven't had time to update any of the forums with the latest news from Burma - there's too much of it! Instead, I've set up a specific political journal for it: Burmablog. It's over at GreatestJournal, because I want to try it out in case SixApart gets any more evil and I decide to leave livejournal, and also means it's away from my usual baratron accounts where I have a lot of... personal information that I may not want family members to know (!).

    I'm sure there's some way to create an RSS feed so you can read my Burmablog posts on livejournal, but I've been working on this thing for about 6 or 7 hours straight and I need to get some sleep.

    I've posted, er, a lot of information in the Burmablog that I haven't posted here, including lots of new links. There's also transcripts of a video of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaking and of a Radio 4 interview with the British ambassador to Burma. The most disgusting new news is that the Burmese military has ordered soldiers to shave their heads to infiltrate protests. With shaven heads and dressed in monks' robes, these soldiers will then start rioting or attacking police - giving the military an excuse to be violent in return. Yuck :/.

    Things you can do - updated with many new links. Most of the links are UK-based because I trust the Burma Campaign UK charity to know what it's talking about. The US Campaign for Burma seem to want you to give money and I couldn't see looking quickly quite what they intend to do with the money. (Is it just to fund activism within the US, or do they think they're somehow going to send money to Burma? I'd be in favour of the former, and very much against the latter - any money that you try to send to Burma goes straight into the government's pockets.)

    I need to go & do something non-activisty now. My eyes are blurring from 7 hours of reading text!
     
  9. Mmm, situation not good apparently. 200 monks arrested in pre-dawn raids, and the prisons 'ain't known for their friendly ways. I think infact one prison is nicknamed the "Insane" prison or somesuch.

    Kuroboom, I've seen plenty of petitions never reach anyone important and I've seen plenty that do get shrugged off with a wave of a politicians hand, but the thing is, how will jotting your name down whenever you see an appeal like this do anything bad? At worst it will be ignored and you will have lost five seconds of your time, at best it may actually do something good.
     
  10. I know what you're trying to say, and I do feel sorry for them, but I won't sign a petition because I feel it is a useless gesture. You'll never get enough signatures to influence anything and if anything does get done at all, it will all be politically motivated rather than because they actually feel for the people in Burma.

    In any case, Burma is the one that's getting all the attention right now, but that doesn't mean anything will ever get done. If I recall correctly, there was a huge conflict going on in Darfur. I'm sure there were petitions sent out over that, but yet still I see nothing being done. Sure there's a chance a petition might work, but there's a nice saying that I feel accurately describes petitions. "You can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one gets filled first."

    I'm sorry if I'm detracting from the thread, but I felt I had to say that. Petitions are only useless gestures, like the "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!" magnets/stickers people put on their cars.
     
  11. baratron

    baratron Moderator of Elder Scrolls
    Staff Member Moderator

  12. I've signed that petition, however in my personal experience most official petitions unless they only affect a small community that are put on that site are generally ignored and get a typical weasel response from Gordon Brown.
    Skippy however is pretty damn awesome.
     
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