Agam's Gecko
Sunday, November 04, 2007

he Washington Post carries an op-ed piece this weekend written by U Gambira, one of the leaders of the All-Burma Monks Alliance.

On October 24, I carried a report from Democratic Voice of Burma which detailed some of the hardship faced by this monk's family while he continues to try to stay a step ahead of the junta's intelligence service. Two of his brothers, as well as a sister and his mother have all been arrested -- held hostage, in other words -- to induce his surrender. His remaining sister and his father, as far as I know, are still being hunted.

A few days earlier, I quoted from his risky telephone conversation with Radio Free Asia's Burmese language service. He bracketed his appeals to Amb. Gambari, Pres. Bush, and supporters across the world with brief comments about his own situation.
“My situation is not good. I have slept without shelter for two nights. I am not very well now. My security is pretty bad,” he said, speaking from an undisclosed location. “Now these fellows are trying to butcher me. Now if you are done talking, as soon as you hang up, I have to move somewhere…”

“I might not have very long to live. I, Gambira, speaking by phone with you right now, have a very slim chance of survival. Please try your best to relieve our suffering.
Somehow, Gambira has sent this essay -- likely written in Burmese -- to the outside. Thanks to Washington Post (who I frequently have criticized) for publishing it. Different from the fear one could feel in reading his words a few weeks ago, he seems confident now that it is the junta who have something to fear.
Hundreds of our monks and nuns have been beaten and arrested. Many have been murdered. Alarmingly, thousands of clergy have disappeared. Our sacred monasteries have been looted and destroyed. As darkness falls each night, intelligence units try to round up political and religious leaders...

My colleagues and I welcomed the strong actions of the United States to impose financial and travel restrictions on the regime and its enablers. Australia is following this model, and the European Union should as well.

Than Shwe and his fellow military leaders have sought to portray this uprising as a singular event, now over. A veneer of quiet has replaced the sounds of gunfire on city streets. Unfortunately, many in the international community buy in and actively support this propaganda.
Phra is quite right on this. Many folks covering Burma on the net noticed this rather sycophantic piece by John Teo in the Malaysian New Straits Times.
If we accept that the military has to be an integral part of any realistic solution to Myanmar's multi-faceted political challenges, the generals can at least make a half respectable claim to being ill-served by the democratic imperative of a free vote, which threatened not only to marginalise them but also held out the prospect of a democratically elected government being hostile to them.

Rather than Myanmar's neighbours in Asean and Asia generally being complicit in sustaining its military regime, the real villain is Western governments pandering to the unreasonable expectations of their people for democratic quick fixes abroad and arrogantly throwing their weight around all over the world, with scant regard for the unintended dire consequences of their actions and policies.
Well, too much of that. Back to the essay by Phra Gambira (Phra ["pra!"]) is how one addresses a monk in Thailand, I'm sorry to say I don't know the Burmese word - "U" is a general honorific for men).
People ask whether I am disheartened and whether this latest spasm of democratic activism is over. The answer to both questions is no. Although I am wanted by the military and forced to hide in my own country, I am awed by the bravery of so many, including sympathetic security agents of the junta who opened their homes to democracy leaders and me.
This is extremely interesting, yet another reference to agents of the regime having sympathy with the freedom movement, and taking risks to do something right.
Burma's Saffron Revolution is just beginning. The regime's use of mass arrests, murder, torture and imprisonment has failed to extinguish our desire for the freedom that was stolen from us so many years ago. We have taken their best punch.

Now it is the generals who must fear the consequences of their actions. We adhere to nonviolence, but our spine is made of steel. There is no turning back. It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey. Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow.
Deep Wai.

Please read it all.


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