Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Resentment simmers in Burma a year after unabated crackdown

By Huaipi & Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima)– The unabated crackdown by the military junta notwithstanding, resentment against the regime is not likely to diminish, activists and opposition forces inside Burma said on Tuesday.

Members of Burma's main opposition party – the National League for Democracy - students and activists said on the first anniversary of the Saffron Revolution against the sudden fuel price hike and soaring essential commodity prices, that resentment is ever increasing despite the junta's brutal crackdown.

"The discontent and resentment among people simmers. People are dissatisfied with the current situation," Nyan Win, spokesman of the NLD said.

Aung Moe Hein, an activist operating secretly in Rangoon, said, "The resentment against oppression by the junta boils in the heart and soul of each person. We are determined to continue our struggle till victory is achieved."

Nyan Win said, the violent crackdown by the ruling junta on protesters cannot resolve the current economic crisis. It is akin to wrong treatment for a severely ill patient.

"This treatment cannot cure the root cause of the disease. They should not arrest individuals. They should strive for the betterment and development of the economy to stem unrests," he said.

On August 19, 2007, several 88 Generation Students including Min Ko Naing led a peaceful protest march in solidarity with poor people who were hardest hit by the sudden fuel price hike that caused prices of basic commodities to escalate.

However, the regime deploying its puppet civilian organizations – the Union Solidarity and Development Association and Swan Arrshin – cracked down on sporadic protests that started since August 19, 2007.

The regime reacted swiftly crushing protests by arresting 13 of the key 88 generation student leaders including Min Ko Naing during a midnight raid on August 21.

Despite the junta's attempt to put down the protests, the discontent of the people eventually snowballed when the peaceful protests were joined by Buddhist monks. It inflamed further when Burmese Army troops harshly cracked down on protesting monks in the central Burmese town of Pakokku.

This led to the monks calling for a nation-wide boycott of the ruling junta and ignited what was to be known later as the 'Saffron Revolution'.

But the junta, which has a history of brutality in dealing with public protests, violently cracked down on protesting monks and civilians, by opening fire on the marching crowds on September 26, 2007.

While the United Nations has gone on record as saying that the junta killed at least 30 people, opposition parties and observers said more than 200 were killed while over 6,000 people were detained.

Activists said, despite a year having gone by, the junta continues to arrest activists and protesters and keeps a close watch on activists and politicians.

"I can see a lot of people around my house keeping watch over my movement. There are about three or four people keeping vigil round the clock near my house including at bus stops," a woman member of the 88 Generation Students said.

A NLD Youth member who took part in the 1988 popular uprising and 2007 September protests told Mizzima that they live under constant fear and anxiety over their safety. He said that they could be arrested by the junta any time, anywhere.

"Whenever I wake up, I wonder whether I will still see my friend whom I talked to yesterday or whether he will be arrested. I also fear whether it will be my friends or me who will be arrested first. I am in constant fear wondering when they will come and arrest me," he said.

Despite the junta's unabated efforts to arrest and search for activists, those including NLD youth members and 88 Generation Students said the crackdown will not break their spirit and will not stop their activities. They would continue their struggle for change.

"We are making sacrifices for the Burmese people. We will continue our struggle to achieve the goal of democracy and restoration of human rights. This is our task. To arrest us is their task," Aung Moe Hein said.

"We shall win one day. I firmly hope and believe that the people standing and fighting for truth and justice shall someday prevail," he added.

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