Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ore accounts of the terrorism waged by the Burmese junta against its people are trickling out of the country. One journalist, acquainted with a longtime foreign resident of Rangoon, has received some of these accounts through his friend. The people's state of fear has returned, and is sharper than before, according to these recorded interviews, smuggled out through a private channel.

A young man describes the destruction of social trust:
There is no more connection between people. It's been broken. In our own neighborhood, the security groups will arrest anyone who is heard talking about these events. Even at tea shops, we can't talk about these things. These thugs will remember who you are and come to arrest you later. We can only talk to people we know on the street and never to strangers now. No one says anything at the market and everything has to be in secret.
A teacher spoke of the pain at seeing Buddhism desecrated, and the deep sadness weighing on the monks:
It is almost coming on 50 years that we have clung to our culture by tolerating this military government. But something we revered was insulted...

I know dozens of monks. One monk is very old. He is 78. It never occurred to him that in his lifetime he would have to hide. The day after the shootings started, I went to this monastery and the faces that I saw on those monks was something I had never seen. It is not fear. It was a sadness so unbelievable.

Now the young monks that I talked to - who weren't rounded up - they want to disrobe. They don't have the moral courage to go on.
A businessman who joined the protests, even though his company lost a lot of business during the upheaval:
My own experience of traveling to other countries opened my mind and changed my life. I loved the freedom I found in the United States. It was something I had never experienced. If I hadn't spent time abroad, I would have ended up as a military man. Or else I could have been an informer exposing the conversation we're having right now.
Wounded protesters, still recovering in hospital from gunshots, have been spirited away to an interrogation centre.
Six patients being treated for gunshot wounds at Rangoon general hospital have been transferred to an unknown interrogation camp, according to family members.

The six had been hospitalised after being shot by soldiers during protests in the former capital on 27 September...

"We arrived at the hospital on Wednesday to visit Ko Mya Than Htike but doctors there told us government officials had come to the hospital that morning and taken all six patients to an interrogation centre," said the family member.

"His family is under close watch by the authorities as well. His wife can't even go outside the house."
Three more NLD members have been arrested in Mandalay, bringing the total number of those detained (from the rightful governing party of Burma) to 41. Detained monks from one monastery in Moulmein were released -- out of the 400 sent back to their hometowns, only 200 made it home. It's believed the junta or one of its thug organisations picked them up.

Yet even with this heavy-handed approach, many people are still willing to take risks to protect dissidents. One leader of the All Burma Students' Union has made it to safety, with the help of courageous citizens. These last three reports and many more, come via the new site Flaming Peacocks, providing English translation of material from Burmese blogs and the Burmese language services of Democratic Voice of Burma, VOA, Mizzima and others. The site is run by international Burmese students, and its headline feed is featured in our menu bar at right.

Moustache Brothers
Keeping a cheerful spirit in the face of adversity - The Moustache Brothers!
Times UK correspondent Kenneth Denby has been in Mandalay, and last week provided a wonderful glimpse into the high-spirited world of the Moustache Brothers, a legendary comedy troupe whose members have poked fun at the authorities -- and suffered the consequences -- for three decades. Two of them have already served long prison terms, and two weeks ago the star of the brothers' little vaudeville act, Par Par Lay was snatched by the junta's special branch in the middle of the night. His family have no idea where he is, nor of his condition. But the show must go on.
Deprived of Moustache No 1, Lu Maw, Lu Zaw and the wives none the less romped through their hour-long routine yesterday, a bizarre stream of Burmese classical dance, jokes about randy henpecked husbands and Lu Maw’s personal thesaurus of colloquial English phrases, all recounted through an antique microphone.
Banned from earning their living by playing weddings and parties after their performance for the NLD in 1996 earned Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw seven years hard labour, the brothers converted the front room of their house into a theatre for tourists, and performed the shows in English.
[N]ervous tourists go pale when Lu Maw announces that if the secret police carry out a raid he will scarper out the back leaving the audience to get beaten up. “I joking!” he adds reassuringly. Lu Maw’s 82-year-old father sits outside keeping an eye out for spooks.
International support was crucial in pressing for the brothers' release, which came in 2001. Famous international comedians helped sustain the campaign. Lu Maw:
“You know Hugh Laurie? You know Eddie Izzard?” he asks. “Please tell Richard Gere – and tell Steven Seagal. Make this public over the world, and then my brother will come back quickly.”
Denby has now moved on to the junta's purpose-built hideout capital Nay Pyi Daw. (For some background on Nay Pyi Daw, see here.) He's the first foreign journalist to get into the city since the crackdown, and still one of the few foreigners to have been there at all (outside of the Armed Forces Day ceremonies at the parade grounds).
The broad roads, grandiose public buildings and shopping centres are meant as a model of the advanced Asian city — but many of them stand empty and unused. Unknown millions have been lavished on its construction in a country where most people live on less than 50p a day.
Although foreigners need permission to visit and travel agents won't sell train tickets to the nearest town, Denby simply purchased a ticket for further down the line, and got off at the nearby town anyway. No one stopped him. Despite these restrictions, the city seems equipped for foreign visitors.
In structure, Naypyidaw is hardly a city at all but rather a series of distantly spaced zones, carefully dispersed to isolate the different parts of the city from one another. The hotel zone is where foreigners stay, in places with names such as the Royal Kumudra, the Golden Myanmar and the Aureum Palace. For $70 (£35) a night I enjoyed foreign cable TV and airconditioning in a self-contained bungalow. I saw not a single other guest.
The generals' extreme isolation in their jungle capital may eventually lead to their own undoing.

How can we support the Burmese people's struggle for freedom? It's being done all over the world in many small ways. A small group of Burmese democracy campaigners in northern Thailand have set up a fund to channel relief and support into Burma. I've now added a link to the Save Burma graphic at the top of this page, and Give to Burma is the one. They started with a couple of hundred dollars on Sept. 25, and have now passed $13,000.
As we are a small group based in Northern Thailand, we have local contacts who will transfer the money safely inside Burma. These funds will be used for essential supplies (medicines, food, drinking water, robes).
  • We guarantee that to the best of our abilities, 100% of the funds you donate will reach the people who most need help inside Burma (after PayPal take their small transaction fee).
  • We guarantee that to the best of our abilities, none of these funds will be used to support violent or aggressive action of any kind
We will keep reliable records, along with payment vouchers and receipts when the money is transferred to the receivers inside Burma.
There is also an internet petition circulating which readers may want to sign (if you're not allergic to using military means to protect innocent lives). The current Security Council is surely not capable of doing what the petition calls for -- the sending of UN troops to protect the people of Burma -- but a strong response will help sustain the pressure for more serious efforts in this regard. Urgent UN Troops to Burma(Myanmar) Petition.


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