Agam's Gecko
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Aung San Suu Kyi
Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi was permitted to meet a few of her party members on Wednesday.
Photo: Junta Handout

s the situation for Burmese democrats continues to worsen with mounting arrests and criminal charges against them, and as the junta spurns the involvement of UN-designated envoys, the ruling generals allowed democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi out of her confines for a brief meeting with members of her party on Wednesday. She also met with the regime's designated hitter, "Minister for Relations" Aung Kyi.

Although they might think otherwise, the generals are not fooling anyone. Far from having genuine dialogue with the opposition, these few meetings since the bloody crackdown in September serve only to emphasize the fact that nothing positive is being done toward reconciliation. While they deepen their persecution of the Burmese democratic movement, escalate their genocidal wars against ethnic minorities and refuse entry to two United Nations diplomats, they actually seem to think that by staging one of these meetings, the world will turn over and go back to sleep.

Daw Suu has met five times with the regime's representative since October, and the process has accomplished nothing but to stall for time. The only discernible benefit has been to allow a few of Suu Kyi's thoughts to escape from her confinement to the outside world (she is denied any form of communication). Her party spokesman read out a statement from her after the meeting.
"So far we have not received any clear message from the government," she said in the statement.

"We have to be patient, as we have sacrificed for many years," she said.

"I don't want to give false hopes to the people. I will tell the people more when the time comes."

Aung San Suu Kyi quoted her father, liberation hero Aung San, telling the public to "Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst."
Five meetings, three months and no clear message from the government. But outside these meetings, the regime gives very clear messages.

Democracy proponents and monks who participated in the September protests are still being hunted down by the secret police. Members of a women's "Homemaker Association" are arrested and charged for violation of laws on association. Bloggers are arrested or in hiding. A respected leader of a monks' association, U Gambira has now been charged under the Unlawful Associations Act. Newspapers and magazines are suspended for anything that offends the thin-skinned "men" in green, including a "love poem" which subversively spelled out "Power Mad Than Shwe" when read vertically.

The people strike back in the only ways now available, with poster campaigns and graffiti, and more than a little ridicule. Such tactics may seem ineffectual, but Burma's insecure rulers are greatly concerned with "face" -- no less than their CCP patrons in Beijing are. And here might be a clue. The Chinese are worried that Burma might just flare up again in the remaining months before the opening of their big face event on August 8, and they will not soon forget the massive bad publicity China received over the killing streets in Rangoon.

The strategy seems to be for the client state's rulers (Beijing is not a puppeteer, but rather the junta's principle patron) to play things out for time. Whatever it takes to postpone the next eruption until after the Olympics, so it wouldn't reflect badly on the ultimate moment of Chinese pride. Burma is only one issue the Chinese have worries about keeping under control until after their politicized, hyper-nationalistic games take place, and cement their new status as a "leading nation" of the world.

The Burmese democratic student movement is known as the "8888 Generation." This commemorates the date, August 8, 1988, of the mass uprising against the dictatorship (which the regime crushed with massive loss of life). It will be the 20th anniversary of this movement when the CCP opens their Olympics at eight minutes after eight, on the eighth of August '08. Those Chinese really love their eights. In doing so, they've cemented the connection of their games to the aspirations of Burmese freedom lovers.

So while the junta will do anything to keep the lid on, they have to discretely get the pressure off from time to time, hoping that the situation won't explode in their (and Chinese) faces. That may be why, months after a very public rebuke from many sides over its forced use of child soldiers (and the buying and selling of children to be soldiers), the junta announced punishments for 43 members of their military for engaging in such despicable acts. Of an estimated 70,000 boys as young as 11 who serve in the national army, state media reported this week that 792 had been returned to their parents. Among the 43 personnel punished were "some officers." There were no details on their punishments.

But it makes for a good headline, for those who get their information only from headlines. Go back to sleep again, while 10 members of 8888 Generation are charged with crimes under the "Printers and Publishers Registration Law," and then 7 more prominent dissidents are charged under the same law, all for merely expressing aspirations in a peaceful manner. One of the articles in this law, relating to "acts which could destabilize the government," carry a possible life sentence.

Thankfully, someone is not asleep here and had a strong and immediate response:
January 29, 2008

Burmese Regime Increases Pressure on Democracy Activists

The United States condemns the regime’s decision to press criminal charges against ten Burmese pro-democracy activists, including Generation 88 leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, for the peaceful expression of their political beliefs. If the regime were serious about engaging in a peaceful transition to democracy, it would stop arresting and prosecuting Burma’s democratic leaders, and instead engage them in a genuine dialogue. The regime’s decision to charge the ten activists for crimes that carry lengthy prison sentences is further evidence that the regime is rejecting all efforts to promote dialogue and national reconciliation, thus not fulfilling the expectations of the UN Security Council as expressed in the October 11 UN Security Council Presidential Statement.

The United States calls on Than Shwe and his regime to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to cease the arrests and prosecution of democracy and human rights activists, and to begin a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with Burma’s democratic and ethnic minority representatives on a transition to a civilian, democratic government.
These ten, plus the additional seven activists (not all of whom have been identified) likely include all eight of the prisoners of conscience commemorated in this video composition by Democratic Voice of Burma. I posted this last November, along with some information on the eight people featured in it. Here it is again if you missed it. Subtitles by me, with translation help from Kaung Kin Ko.


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