Wednesday, October 24, 2007
STORIES FROM THE BURMESE GULAG
allies will be held across the world today demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. The protests will be staged outside Chinese embassies (as the Burmese junta's primary patron), in major cities in North & South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. October 24 marks the day Daw Suu Kyi has spent a total of 12 years in detention. Some information on the day of action is here.
One novel form of protest against the depravities of Burma's military rulers has been launched by a Lanna organisation in northern Thailand (the Lanna are the ethnic group of the Chiang Mai area). Panty Power!
After a day of tri-panty dialogue, deep in the golden triangle due to the popular demand, the panties are back. Make sure your panties reach the intended target, SPDC. You can post, deliver or fling your panties at the closest Burmese Embassy any day from today. Send early, send often!Than Shwe is said to believe that contact with such things will sap his power (he's very superstitious), so this could be described as a form of postal panty judo -- turning the enemy's weakness against himself. A list of worldwide Burma embassies is here.
This is your chance to use your Panty Power to take away the power from the SPDC and support the people of Burma.
Democratic Voice of Burma is reporting that Aung San Suu Kyi has been taken from her home to an unknown location.
Sources in the former capital Rangoon said they had seen Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being taken from her house in University Avenue, where she has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest, by government officials in a vehicle.Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy could not confirm the reports. More than 270 NLD members have already been taken into custody.
A leader of the All-Burma Monks’ Alliance, U Gambira -- who is still in hiding from the authorities and whose impassioned plea to the world (and specifically to U.N. Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari and U.S. President George Bush) I quoted here on Saturday -- has had his family members arrested. Basically they were taken as hostages for ransom.
Ko Aung Kyaw Kyaw, the younger brother of U Gambira and secretary of the National League for Democracy in Pauk township, Magwe division, was arrested in Rangoon on Wednesday by authorities. Another brother of the monk, Ko Win Zaw, a HIV/AIDS patient, was also arrested in their hometown of Pauk recently.A foreigner in Rangoon has sent an "I-Report" to CNN, and has penned a short sketch of life there -- Myanmar, where 'traitors soon meet their tragic ends'.
Sources close to the family told DVB that U Gambira's mother and sister were also arrested by the township police in Meikhtila in Mandalay division, leaving his father and another sister on the run.
The sources also told DVB that the military intelligence officer who arrested U Gambira's family members apparently told them they would not be released until the monk is detained.
Every day, I hear sad stories. A father is killed when trying to reach his son in a school that is cordoned off by the military. A young student in a village school is killed by overzealous military, but the family cannot obtain the body, which was conveniently cremated. If the family protests, the whole village suffers.While the abuses were out in the open, in streets where hidden cameras could capture some of it for the world's attention, now things are different. "Now, I and others observe people arrested on the street and led into an alleyway or building where there are no cameras. What happens then is anyone's guess," writes the author, whose identity is being withheld.
Seeing the routine repression in this country can only make you wonder what happens out of sight and outside normal conversation, especially during this elevated crisis.View his video report here. Included is an interview with the 91 year old poet, author and freedom fighter Ludu Daw Ahmar, known as "the people's mother." Long ago, along with her late husband she established Burma's first independent newspaper. "Sometimes I think I can see our country in good state, sometimes I feel my hope is gone... We are still under struggle, but victory is with us."
I know this government is very vindictive and obviously has no intention of doing anything but a better job at covering up its abuses.
A recent quote in the The New Light of Myanmar, a government publication, says it all: "National traitors will soon meet their tragic ends."
The video also includes footage of the famous "Moustache Brothers," featured here last week. Moustache Number Two, Luu Maw appeals for help -- especially from the international comedic community -- for help in getting Moustache Number One, Par Par Lay, released from the clutches of the military. There is still no information on Par Par Lay's condition or whereabouts.
The Australian is reporting that since the partial restoration of internet service last week, more photos of the military's brutality are emerging from the country.
One email sent by Burmese activists carries two clear photos of murdered monks - one a corpse, apparently missing an arm, laying on blue plastic.The Korean journalist previously cited here in reports for International Herald Tribune and NYT, is still in Rangoon taking the pulse of a traumatized people. Here's another example of the junta apparently having taken lessons from their Chinese patrons.
The other is a bloody shot of the back of a monk's head, split by several of what appear to be axe wounds...
Another email carries a file of Burmese-language newspaper Burma Campaign Japan, with photos of a tanker truck running over at least one body, and a photo of a body lying face down in a pool of blood.
When it was all over, The New Light of Myanmar, a government-run English-language newspaper, said this month, "monks had been defrocked during interrogation," so they could be questioned as ordinary lay people, and then "ordained and sent back to their monasteries." In interviews, monks denounced this process, saying the military had no authority to defrock or ordain monks.A vile and murderous regime, with obviously no regard for their people's religious faith, thinks it has the authority to de-ordain and re-ordain the "sons of the Buddha" (as one Burmese recently described the monks). In Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party has ruled that Lamas ('great teachers') may not reincarnate without Party approval.
The Washington Post's Jill Drew has also been in Rangoon and Mandalay (all these journalists have to sneak in as tourists), and offers us more of the views of average citizens.
"The people, we all feel so cramped up inside," said a 66-year-old man in Rangoon. "We cannot talk. We cannot do anything. This government, they are killers. They have guns, but the people have nothing." He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes. "I'm sorry, but I don't have anyone to talk to about these things."Mandalay is a bit closer to normal, but the all-pervasive fear is palpable there too.
In Mandalay, also a site of monk-led protests, the monks were more visible, with several walking to shops and restaurants in the mornings, collecting alms, rice and curries for their midday meals. "The monks who demonstrated are all gone," said one monk. He did not participate because he was afraid of the soldiers. "I want democracy," he said. He has a radio and listens to Voice of America, but only when he is alone. Too many plainclothes security officers, he said, "have put on the robes and it's not safe to talk."Another page out of the Chinese communist playbook -- infiltrate the monkhood with spies and informers.
A Rangoon taxi driver told of a friend detained for 10 days. "He was given one egg to share with eight people, one bottle of water. No one was allowed to sleep. They had to sit, and if they lay down, they were hit."More accounts of life in the makeshift concentration camps coming up.
People know who their enemy is, and who the supporters of their enemy are.
"All they know is stealing," seethed one taxi driver as he took a passenger on a circuitous route to the airport, slowing in front of the house of Tay Za, the owner of a local airline who is close to Senior Gen. Than Shwe, leader of the junta. The villa had an open garage, with two Ferraris inside, one red and one yellow. "They want money, money, money. And we have nothing," he said.Tay Za owns several companies based in Singapore which have been targeted under the recently strengthened sanctions announced by President Bush.
The people also know how to express their loyalty to The Lady, and here once again, some similarity with the Tibetans under Chinese occupation expressing the same for their leader in creative ways.
Resistance continues, but for now it is subtle. At Shwedagon Pagoda, beneath a gleaming gold spire lavished with diamonds provided by the military government, a man guided a visitor to one of the many Buddha images, this one covered with strings of fresh flowers and offerings of fruit.In the slideshow of Jill Drew's photos available here, a man is shown making a call from a public phone kiosk (complete with live operator). The caption says that the government controls all cell phone SIM card sales, which it says cost about $1,500. I bought a SIM card in Indonesia the last time I was there. The card from one of the ubiquitous SIM card sidewalk vendors (it's a very popular small business, all legit and legal), cost about $1.50. No wonder our former tycoon-in-chief of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra was so keen on his ventures in the Burmese telecoms market. Look at the profit margins!
"This is where the people know to pray for the safety of our lady," he said quietly...
Popular Burmese comedian Zargana was one of the many entertainers arrested in the crackdown, for the crime of giving offerings to monks. He was one of those released a few days ago. Flaming Peacocks has translated part of a Burmese language interview he did with Democratic Voice of Burma. He is described as "well-known for his spot-on sarcasm about the junta and in the past twenty years, he has been detained more frequently than not."
In the interview, Zarganar told DVB that monks in custody have been forced to defrock. However, the three monks he met continue to meditate and observe the rules of Sangha. He said the monks told him that the conditions in concentration camps were terrible; the monks in custody were made to squat, urinate, and pass motion [defecate] in the same confined space. They were also not given any food.He also gave an interview to the Burmese service of Radio Free Asia, along with another entertainer. They describe slightly better conditions at the notorious Insein Prison, in comparison with the treatment meted out at the crowded makeshift camps such as the ones at the Government Technical Institute.
U Ye Lwin, 60, plays guitar, sings, and writes music for the well-known Burmese band, Myizzima Hlaing. He was arrested Sept. 27 as he sat on the main Pansodan road in the country’s former capital, Rangoon, praying and protesting alongside monks and members of the public...RFA also spoke to Zargana about his ordeal.
U Ye Lwin said monks were also kept in isolation in Insein Prison, and he reported seeing many university students. He said his status as a well-known musician appeared to protect him from interrogation, although the students were repeatedly summoned and tortured by the prison authorities.
“The students were beaten during the interrogations. People were beaten when they [the authorities] couldn’t get the answers they wanted. There were monks who had already sustained injuries when they came. The monks were interrogated separately,” he said.
“I started having pneumonia, and I was in trouble,” Zagana said. “I didn’t think I was going to be released. I was kept with the military dogs. How rude and wicked. I was there with 30 dogs...”And in the midst of all this governmental depravity in a member state, ASEAN says the situation in Burma will not stop them from signing a new ASEAN charter.
Zagana is known in much of Burma for satirical productions such as “The Beggars’ National Convention,” a parody of the regime’s National Convention during which it has promised to discuss a “road map” to democracy with the opposition...
Most of those being released were ordinary citizens, while monks, students, and activists remained in custody. Both U Ye Lwin and Zagana vowed to continue their nonviolent opposition to the government.
The charter, which [Singapore Foreign Minister George] Yeo described as a 'milestone,' is to include an agreement to establish an ASEAN human rights body and a system of compulsory dispute settlement among the group's 10 members, which include Myanmar.However, ASEAN Sec-Gen Ong Keng Yong said the signing could be delayed if the Burmese dictator, Than Shwe failed to attend. I wonder if he has the confidence to go out of the country at this point. It could be an excellent time for another pro-democracy coup d'etat. In self-imposed exile from Thailand, our former tycoon-in-chief Thaksin Shinawatra would know something about that.