Saturday, June 07, 2008
KILLER JUNTA STEALS AID, EVICTS REFUGEES, MURDERS MINORITIES: SITUATION UNCHANGED
here was some apparently unfounded optimism expressed on this page after Ban Ki-moon's unexpected "breakthrough" with Than Shwe on May 23. If such a massive cataclysm could not shake the generals awake, and the international fury at their refusal to permit the "Mercy Fleet" to save lives would have no effect on their pig-headedness, then even the hope that Than Shwe's word could mean something was a foolish one.
Many of the international aid workers who had been twiddling their thumbs in Bangkok for weeks, anxious to get inside and get their operations under way, were grudgingly granted entry visas as promised. But everything is now being done to ensure they stay stuck in Rangoon and out of the delta. The junta's mouthpiece "media" insults the world's compassion, screaming that "we don't need your chocolate bars!" (which are not given, but the high energy biscuits can save many lives). "We can take care of this ourselves, our refugees can eat frogs!" (I'm not kidding!)
Burma's rulers care nothing for their own laws. Laws are for the slaves, not the masters. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under detention for five straight years, the legal limit for detaining anyone without trial or charge. Her detention order was extended another year.
The propaganda masters are insecure when presented with actual journalism, and so denounce independent field reports as "insulting". Down in the delta, communities are now struggling with the predicted disease outbreaks.
Citizens' efforts to bring help to their fellow citizens are blocked at every turn by the army, and the victims are seen by their rulers as a merely a group which brings damage to the country's reputation. One of the most successful of these citizens' efforts was led by popular comedian Zarganar (his stage name means "tweezers"). Jailed for offering food to monks during the democratic uprising in September, now he's arrested for feeding cyclone survivors.
The junta's intransigence has forced the French aid-bearing ship to sail after weeks of waiting, and now the US ship has headed off too. These ocean-borne facilities could have saved thousands of lives, but the generals' stupidity has killed them instead. It insists the relief effort phase (saving people) has finished, and the reconstruction phase (building new stuff) is what they're concentrating on now.
The people who need the help are evicted from relief centres (and their aid is stolen), sent back to their non-existent homes. Or, they can get arrested -- it's up to them!
But what would they do to survive, in their destroyed towns? If they want some emergency disaster assistance, they will have to work for it. Forced labour is nothing new for these generals, it's been a reality in Burma as long as they've held power.
You're a cyclone refugee? Lost half (or all) of your family? Want to eat? You'll be working on the reconstruction projects that will make the generals, their cronies and families even richer. Working for survival, not for pay. It's slavery, what else is it? Senior-General Than Shwe and his fearful, yet adoring clique are not good at very much, but they are masters at being masters. Every citizen can be made a slave.
Schools in destroyed towns have re-opened, but where are the children? Meanwhile, the spoiled children of the ruling elite can sometimes have other problems. That's the son of a very top ranking general, chief of the Bureau of Special Operations. Perhaps his son's arrest is an indicator of something more, we'll have to see. It seems sometimes that only a split in the army could possibly save this country.
Aung Lin Htut, formerly the deputy chief of mission at the Burmese Embassy in Washington, described to a radio station how 81 people, including women and children, were shot and buried on an isolated island after straying into a remote military zone in the southeast of the country in 1998.The families had been on Christie Island, in the Mergui Archipelago, gathering wood and bamboo when a military patrol landed there, commanded by Burma's current Minister for Electric Power, Col. Zaw Min. He is now also the leader of the USDA, the junta's civilian thug militia.
The families the patrol found working on the island comprised 59 people; a request for orders from headquarters was answered -- "Eliminate them." An air force general hesitated over the order, and was told it came from "Aba Gyi" (the "Great Father"). That's Senior-General Than Shwe himself.
Only days later, a Thai fishing vessel came too close to this military zone. Twenty two Thai fishermen were apprehended, executed, and buried on the island. Aung Lin Htut was then a military intelligence officer, later to be purged along with then Prime Minister (and formerly the head of military intelligence) Khin Nyunt. He sought asylum in the US in 2005, and has not spoken of the regime until now.
It's a horrible case, but Burma's recent history is full of such horrible cases. Summary execution, grisly torture, forced labour and forced population displacement, forced military service for children -- these are the bread and butter for this despicable junta. The humanitarian crisis brought on by the cyclone provided an opening for the world to finally do something about it. But the world's collective wisdom said, "It's too hard."
Another in a seemingly endless string of such reports shows that the genocidal campaign against the Karen of eastern Burma has not diminished, cyclone or no cyclone. The Karen are forced out of their villages (just like cyclone survivors are forced out of their meagre shelters) and put into forced labour camps. Their villages will be torched, and they'll be porters for the army -- if they're lucky. If not, one can be chosen to be a human mine sweeper, so better not complain about it.
Read this translated Burmese blog article by Burmese Bloggers Without Borders. It's a captioned photo essay on those who are suffering the results of the cyclone, and those who are enjoying them. See where the nice tents and generators and water purification equipments are being used, and where they aren't.
I haven't provided links for all my assertions in this article, but if you can stand any more, just browse over the websites of Burma's independent journalists, many of whom are continuing to take great risks in getting the truth out to those of us outside the junta's control. It's all there, and more.