Friday, 8 August 2008

Myanmar crackdown remembered

(Aljazeera)- The people of Myanmar are marking exactly 20 years since a military crackdown on a student-led democracy uprising left an estimated 3,000 dead.

But after last year's large-scale rallies that were also brutally crushed, the ruling generals were taking no chances on Friday and the only protests were likely to be outside the country.

Extra police and government supporters that critics call thugs, have been stationed at strategic points and Buddhist monasteries around Yangon, the country's biggest city.

Most of the surviving leaders of the seven-month long 1988 uprising - the biggest challenge to army rule stretching back to 1962 - were arrested last August at the start of fuel-price protests that grew into anti-government demonstrations.

They remain behind bars along with an estimated 1,100 political prisoners.


Outside the South-East Asian nation, however, human rights groups and activists who fled the crackdown on the 1988 protests planned demonstrations at Myanmar and Chinese embassies.

The latter are being targeted on what is also the opening day of the Beijing Olympics because of China's commercial and diplomatic ties to the generals, gate-keepers of Myanmar's plentiful reserves of natural gas and other resources.

But protests were likely to be muted in Singapore, which has also been accused of supporting Myanmar's military government for business opportunities.

Myo Myint Maung, a Myanmar national, said at least three activists who were involved in an illegal protest last year against Myanmar's military government, had been forced to leave Singapore after their visas were not renewed.

A Singapore interior ministry spokeswoman said "foreigners who work or live here are expected to at least respect the law and local sensitivities".

On Thursday, George Bush, the US president, used a visit to neighbouring Thailand, home to more than 100,000 Myanmar refugees and more than a million migrant workers, to call again for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel laureate.

"The American people care deeply about the people of Burma and dream for the day the people will be free," he told dissidents and former political prisoners at an hour-long lunch.

However, Bush also heard criticism of Washington's stance towards Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, for forcing the generals into isolation.

Aung Naing Oo, a former student activist who fled for his life 20 years ago, said he asked Bush "to engage with the Burmese military".

"It's only Than Shwe and a few other generals who want to isolate Burma, so I told him engagement was very important," he said.

Cyclone devastation

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that conditions in Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta that was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in May, were far worse than the government and even the UN said.

Three months after a disaster that claimed nearly 140,000 lives, thousands of villagers are still getting little or nothing from their government or foreign aid groups, AP reported.

Bush Calls in Beijing for Freedom of Speech in China

The Irrawaddy News

BEIJING — Speaking in China on the day the Olympic Games open, US President George W. Bush prodded the communist country on Friday to reduce repression and "let people say what they think."

The president's challenge, issued as he dedicated a massive new US embassy in Beijing, capped a volley of sharp exchanges between the two nations this week about China's human rights record.

But Bush also offered balance, praising China's contributions to society and embracing its relationship with the US as strong, enduring and candid.

"We strongly believe societies which allow the free expression of ideas tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful," Bush said at the official opening of the US $434 million embassy.

"Candor is most effective where nations have built a relationship of respect and trust," Bush said. "I've worked hard to build that respect and trust. I appreciate the Chinese leadership that have worked hard to build that respect and trust."

Bush said the vast American diplomatic complex—the second largest in the world, after the heavily fortified compound in Baghdad—is symbolic of China's importance to the United States.

"It reflects the solid foundation underpinning our relations," Bush said. "It is a commitment to strengthen that foundation for years to come."

Bush came to Beijing mainly to watch US athletes compete and enjoy the spectacle of the summer games, but a round of political one-upmanship has heavily defined his trip to Asia. He bluntly criticized China's human rights record in a speech in Thailand, which prompted China to warn the US president to stop meddling in its business.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang admonished Bush just before he got to China.
"We firmly oppose any words or acts that interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, using human rights and religion and other issues," he said. The spokesman added that "Chinese citizens have freedom of religion. These are indisputable facts."

The rhetorical barbs were expected to recede quickly as the games began. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said she did not think they would overshadow Bush's trip at all.

"We've had these back-and-forths with China for years," she said. The White House says its cooperation with China on security and economic matters should not be overlooked.

The new American embassy in Beijing, situated on 10 acres (4 hectares) in a new diplomatic zone, is wrapped in freestanding transparent and opaque glass. Bush got a look at it on Friday as the pollution over the city cast a white haze in all directions.

The president attended the dedication of the embassy with his father, former President George H W Bush, who in the 1970s served as chief of the US liaison office during a critical period when the US was renewing ties with China.

Also in attendance was Henry Kissinger, who was the US secretary of state during the Nixon presidency when Washington began diplomatic relations with China.

The former US president reminisced about his days in the city, then called Peking, when a young George W Bush rode a bicycle around the city.

The current president said the last time he was in China he had the opportunity to break in a mountain biking course. He joked that he contemplated entering Olympic bike events, but that his wife, first lady Laura Bush, reminded him that "they don't give any medals for last place."

Bush's presence is a precedent. He will be the first US president ever to attend an Olympics on foreign soil when he soaks up the splendor of the opening ceremony.

"I'm looking forward to cheering our athletes on," Bush said. "I'm not making any predictions about medal counts, but I can tell you the US athletes are ready to come and compete in the spirit of friendship."

Bush was having lunch with other world leaders on Friday and then meeting members of the US Olympic Team for a presidential pep talk. At night comes the elaborate opening ceremony.

On Saturday, Bush meets with Olympic sponsors and watches women's basketball. He and family members will likely choose other events to attend.

On Sunday, he will attend a Protestant church and then speak to reporters about religious freedom, the same practice he followed during his last visit to China in 2005. He then plans to take in some men's and women's Olympic swimming.

Business takes over briefly on Sunday afternoon. Bush will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao at his presidential compound and then hold sessions with China's vice president and premier. Then it’s back to sports on Sunday night: the much-anticipated US-China basketball game.

On Monday, the president will attend a practice baseball game between the US and China.

He is expected to add in other sporting events before flying back to Washington that day.

Searching for Democracy Twenty Years On - Editorial

The Irrawaddy News

Two decades have passed since the streets of Burma were filled with hundreds of thousands of triumphant demonstrators chanting over and over again, "We want democracy."

Unfortunately, their calls for creating a democratic, free and prosperous nation fell on the deaf ears of the power-crazy generals who only saw the wishes and desires of the demonstrators as a threat to their very existence.

August 8, 1988, known as “the day of four eights [8.8.88],” when a nationwide pro-democracy uprising broke out across the country, was a major turning point in Burma's political history. An estimated 3,000 protestors were killed on the streets, shot by the security forces to quell the nationwide outcry.

Although 20 long years have passed since then, the country is still ruled by a clique of generals whose hands are stained with the blood of unarmed civilians, monks and young students. In August 2008 and in the following years, the Burmese regime locked up nearly 2,000 political prisoners, along with the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Paradoxically, the regime led by Snr-Gen Than Shwe thought it could save the country from "disintegration" and "anarchy." The most disturbing thing is the generals' stubbornness and unwillingness to make the courageous decisions that are imperative if national reconciliation is to be brought about in Burma. The army, in power since 1962, has presided over a dramatic political and economic decline, and Burma is now one of Asia’s poorest states.

Whenever the people of Burma call for change, however, they meet only further brutality and state-sponsored violence.

The last time demonstrators took to the streets, in monk-led protests in September 2008, the regime again reacted with uncompromising violence, cracking down with its customary brutality. Homes were raided, prominent members of the 88 Generation Students group and other activists were seized and ruthless manhunts were unleashed to capture those who escaped the terror.

Then came Cyclone Nargis in May this year, and again the regime displayed little concern for the people, making totally inadequate and delayed attempts to help the victims. Even now thousands are homeless and face a daily struggle for food.

The junta has not yet shown any real commitment to political reform, despite its announcement of 2010 elections, while the economy stagnates and society remains crippled.

The past 20 years have shown the Burmese army, the Tatmadaw, to be the world's most corrupt armed forces, commanded by generals who have no moral or legal authority to govern Burma, while practicing barbarism, tyranny, anarchy, militarism and enslaving Burmese citizens.

Yet some of Burma’s neighbors—notably Thailand, China and India—are keen to keep on good terms with the Burmese generals for their own business interests, while the UN Security Council has yet to take any effective action against Burma’s ruling generals.

Twenty years on, the blood on the Burmese generals’ hands is still warm, and those who shaking these stained hands should realize they are dealing with one of the cruelest and most brutal regimes in the world. They should recognize the words of the courageous Burmese people who sacrificed their lives for their country, words which have lingered on through 20 years of oppression: "We want democracy."

Low Salaries Contribute to Corrupt Officials

Maungdaw (Narinjara): Officials from the bottom to the top of the chain of command in western Burma's Maungdaw Township are involved in corruption because the salary paid by the government is insufficient for their daily survival, said a retired officer from the immigration department.

He said, "In Maungdaw Township, all government servicemen are involved in corruption because they are unable to maintain their families' survival with a government salary."

U Hla Win, Chairman of Maungdaw District, is being interrogated by high officials after he collected 150,000 kyat from each village tract chairman in his district. He claimed the money would be used for the district office fund.

According to local official sources, U Hla Win went to Naypyidaw recently to address the problem before high military officials, but he is expected to be dismissed from his position.

Another high official from the taxation department is also now under a "Department Enquiry", as he sold government tax stamps to local businessmen at an inflated price.

"His name is Man Pound, the In-Charge of the taxation department, and he is now being interrogated by the high authority because he was selling government stamps to businessmen at double the price of the government determined rated," the retired official said.

He added, "It is not only those two officials but also other officials, including doctors, teachers, and custom officials, that are involved in corruption."

A trader from Maungdaw said that the average person needs at least 7,000 kyat to obtain a testimonial from a doctor in order to be admitted to the general hospital in Maungdaw. If someone is sick and unable to pay that amount, it will be impossible for them get admitted to the hospital for treatment.

The Maungdaw government hospital does not allow anyone to be hospitalized without a doctor's medical testimony.

At government schools of all levels in Maungdaw Township, teachers collect from 5,000 to 10,000 kyat in additional "entrance fees" from individual students. The teachers keep this money for their own interests.

A female trader who carries goods between Maungdaw and Teknaf in Bangladesh said that there are five official organizations at the Maungdaw border gate that collect money from traders crossing into Bangladesh.

The five organizations mentioned are: Customs, Nasaka, the jetty authority, Sarafa, and a combined force made up of the district authority, township authority, and the police.

Many police constables and riot police are involved in unlawful activities in Maungdaw, and some police officials are even known by residents to be involved in drug smuggling to Bangladesh.

According to a local source, in Maungdaw Township the price of rice is double what it is in other areas of Arakan State. A 50 kilogram sack of Pawsan Mwe brand rice is 35,000 kyats, while other regular standard rice brands are nearly 30,000 kyat per sack. A bag of rice is now equivalent to an ordinary government employee's monthly salary. #

Burma’s Saddam: General Than Shwe

By Nyo Ohn Myint

Aug 7, 2008 (DVB)–In the twenty years of iron rule of Burma since 1988, conventional methods of developing democracy have not brought results.

Countries that are strong supporters of Burma are growing tired of considering what strategies should be used. Urging compromise and asking the generals to deal with opposition groups are fanciful ideas. In fact, forcing the generals to review their role in supporting Burma’s absolute power holder senior general Than Shwe might offer a solution.

According to information leaked from inside sources, officials within the State Peace and Development Council are considering a future political landscape for Burma: a Burma without senior general Than Shwe. For many reasons, the regime is developing a political scenario which excludes Than Shwe after the 2010 election.

Currently, the senior general undeniably dictates the SPDC’s future. Disturbingly, Than Shwe’s tyrannical rule over Burma resembles the late Saddam Hussein’s despotic rule over Iraq. While Saddam’s practices of killing and torture were more visible and shocking to the international community, Than Shwe has used marginally more civilized methods when the eyes of the international community are upon him. But beyond the reach of the media and witnesses, both can be equally blamed.

Than Shwe not only eliminates his opponents, but also eradicates colleagues and subordinates who express an alternative view. Within the SPDC, two major purges occurred when Than Shwe disagreed with and felt threatened by other senior officials. First, the brigadier general Zaw Htun’s recommendation for an alternative economic strategy resulted in his retirement and disappearance from the SPDC lineup. Second, former prime minister Khin Nyunt was sentenced to over forty years of imprisonment for working in his own style. In addition to incarcerating Khin Nyunt, Than Shwe had many of Khin Nyunt’s subordinates physically tortured, some of whom were tortured to death. These harsh punishments gave Than Shwe even more power.

Similarly, during Saddam’s rule, Saddam asked his cabinet for candid advice. After health minister Ibrahim suggested that Saddam temporarily step down to allow for peace negotiations during the 1980-84 Iran-Iraq war, pieces of Ibrahim’s dismembered body were delivered to his wife the next day. Although Than Shwe did not kill his senior ministers in the same way, in the example of brigadier general Zaw Htun, Than Shwe severely punished Zaw Htun as well as the entire military intelligence division.

As a Burma watcher explained when comparing Than Shwe to Saddam, “both men refused to compromise and maintained power through reward and punishment. The primary objective of both dictators was to maintain his interests and dominance.” This reward and punishment system has caused administrators in both countries to fear the dictator’s harsh punishment and thus provide false information when competing for their leader’s approval.

Saddam’s cabinet members and aides competed for Saddam’s approval in their genocide; they competed for who could kill more people, who could perform the most gruesome torture and so on.

Similarly in Burma, the regional commanders, who are also military council members, compete for Than Shwe’s approval. For example, commanders competed during the referendum for the most votes in favour of the SPDC constitution. The area commanders who presented less than 90 percent Yes votes in their results were forced to retire or transferred to inactive positions, said sources.

The recent referendum results demonstrate that Than Shwe’s subordinates work to please their dictatorial leader. Certainly, Than Shwe enjoys the pro-SPDC, pro-Than Shwe results that his subordinates falsely provide. However, while the junta’s mouthpiece media attempts to please Than Shwe by showcasing Burma’s new roads and bridges and the country’s “prosperity”, Than Shwe may not realise that it was this kind of misinformation and false representation of reality that resulted in the demise of Saddam’s regime.

Even if both leaders claim to love their countries, they indisputably love themselves and their power more. According to one Burma watcher, “Burma’s authorities now primarily work to attain the senior general’s approval in order to avoid harsh punishment. As long as the senior general continues to use Saddam’s tactics, the other generals within the SPDC will fear opposing him.”

Understanding the Bush interest in Burma

By Sein Win
7 August 200

(Mizzima) "President George Bush will meet Burmese activists during Thailand trip" – dominated headlines among Burma's exile community. It appeared to offer new hope after but the latest episode of sadness and frustration inside their motherland – the military government's stubborn and incapable efforts in the Nargis relief effort.

The message from the President spellbound and morally encouraged Burmese everywhere; as one of the best known personages in the world would personally be standing with the Burmese democratic movement. The message was clear: "You are with me."

But in truth, this period is not a happy one. On the 8th of August, Burma's democratic supporters will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 8-8-88 people's uprising. Yet, two decades later, there are no distinct signs of reconciliation between the military generals and opposition camps. And in a further indication of the rift, both domestic and international aid for cyclone victims is falling dramatically.

And wait a minute! What is even more is that Bush's term in office will finish on January 20, 2009.

I cannot help but ask why Bush did not lunch with Burmese activists seven years ago? Maybe I am being too cynical, but a lot of questions creep into my mind regarding the motivation and impact of Bush's overture to Burmese dissidents at this time.

The Bush administration's foreign policy clout was at its peak after the September 11 terrorist attacks during the early months of his first term. If he had acted then, he could have done much on promoting democracy and freedom in Burma. However, a country like Burma was not a priority.

Additionally, back in Burma in 2001, Nobel Laureate and democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from her second stint of house arrest and negotiation talks commenced – even if of an on-again/off-again nature. It could have provided the best opportunity ever for a U.S.-led democratic consortium to pressure the Burmese regime to hasten democratic reforms.

I have no doubt of Bush's well-intentioned and heartfelt agenda of promoting democracy across the globe and "ending tyranny in our world." However, he has failed to transform personal politics into an effectual and prioritized state policy with regard to Burma.

Of course the President and First Lady, Laura Bush, have on occasion held personal meetings and video conferences with some Burmese activists. But the political landscape of the latter half of 2001 had since changed. The Iraq war of 2003, which has proven a distinct failure in bringing democracy and stability to Iraq, has caused the once unchallenged position of the United States in the post-Cold War era to quietly, but increasingly, be challenged by the likes of China and Russia.

It would be premature to say a multi-polar world has come into existence, but China and Russia have reigned in the early days of a United States taking the fight to the world's illiberal regimes.

In Burma too, 2003 was a fateful year. It was then that the Depayin killings occurred. In the ensuing fallout, possibly the most moderate general in the Burmese junta and a potential force for reform, Khin Nyunt, was ousted by senior hardliners – who have since enacted an ever more radical political line. Increasingly, it appears that Burma's generals can hide, protected, behind neighboring big brother China within the context of global politics.

The onset of active interest on the part of the President and First Lady in the wake of the Depayin massacre demonstrated just how distant Burma had been a foreign policy priority of the United States.

Laura Bush had to have a press conference with a Burma map in her background, while the President struggled with the correct pronunciation, and order, of Aung San Suu Kyi's name.

But the President and First Lady's outward interest in the plight of Burma in the waning days of their time in the White House is not entirely an act without potential long-term – and positive – repercussions.

The next United States administration can learn from the experiences of the Bush years, and by raising the profile of Burma in the last months of his administration, Bush has raised the political costs of the ensuing President should he or she fail to follow-up on Burma. Lastly, Bush himself – in his retirement – can keep fighting for democracy and reconciliation in Burma through continuing and building on this agenda through his democracy foundation.

Good things can materialize from this week's Presidential stopover in Thailand. But it remains vital, especially for the Burmese opposition, to assess the words and actions of this brief episode within their proper context.

Protests in Arakan state's Taungup, 20 arrested

By Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima)– Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the '8.8.88' uprising today, at least 20 youths in Taungup town in Burma's Arakan state were arrested after they took to the streets and began marching in protest.

The protesters, mainly youths from Nat Maw village, were whisked away by the police as they marched across Taungup township police station, sources said.

Thein Naing, Joint Secretary of the Taungup Township National League for Democracy, Burma's main opposition party, told Mizzima that about 25 people from Nat Maw village on Friday marched along the streets of Taungup town.

"They begun marching from Chaung Kauk ward and came along Ottama street but when they arrived in front of the township police station, the road was blocked with barbed wire barricades. They were taken away by the authorities," Thein Naing said.

Villagers of Nat Maw, about three miles from Taungup town, on Thursday held a similar protest march joined by a larger crowd of nearly 200 people.

On Thursday, about 200 villagers of Nat Maw held a commemoration service on the eve of the 20th anniversary of '8.8.88' protests at two Buddhist monasteries and held a brief demonstration in front of the monasteries.

"About 200 students, and youths including youth members of the NLD offered 'Swan' to the monks in commemoration of fallen comrades and held a brief demonstration in front of the monasteries," Thein Naing said.

While it was not clear, how the demonstrations were held on Thursday, so far there are no reports of any arrest related to the event.

Sources said, authorities had tightened security, with security personnel seen everywhere in and around Taungup town.

Thein Naing said, Burmese Army LIB 544 based in Taungup had taken charge of security and police had blocked the road as well as the water way.

"Soldiers in full battle gear are seen every where in the town. I think I saw at least 60 of them," Thein Naing said.

Taungup town is about 250 miles northwest of Rangoon, Burma's former capital.

Meanwhile, in Rangoon, sources said heavy security presence is felt, with soldiers seen everywhere in important street junctions and squares including Sule Pagoda square in the heart of the city, and Shwe Dagon Pagoda, the holiest shrine of the country.

Observers believe the heavy security presence is preventive measures by the junta to stop any movement or protests by activists in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of popular protests in August 8, 2008, which was brutally suppressed by killing at least 3000 people.

Bush walks Burmese tightrope in Bangkok

Mizzima News
07 August 2008

Bangkok – U.S. President George Bush’s much anticipated meeting with a group of Burmese dissidents this afternoon left those in attendance with little doubt as to his sincerity, but also uncertain and divided as to how the United States can best assist in finding a solution for the country’s ongoing crisis.

Following the President’s one hour meeting today in Bangkok with a group of around ten Burmese from different ethnic, professional and activist backgrounds, Win Min, a lecturer at Chiang Mai’s Payap University, summed up the encounter by saying: “Many people in Burma are expecting results, change, but we cannot expect too much from one meeting.”

Win Min proceeded to explain that today’s encounter was important in that it challenges the incoming U.S. administration – Bush is to step down in mid-January 2009 – to act and build upon the foundations of a Burma policy left in place by the outgoing President.

“I’d be very surprised,” Bush commented afterward during a panel interview with Burmese language media outlets with respect to whether a new U.S. administration would drastically alter the country’s policy vis-à-vis Burma. “Freedom for Burma is a bipartisan issue.”

“As long as there is human suffering like there is here in Burma this will be of strategic importance to the United States,” the President elaborated to the four reporters – referring to the current Burmese regime as “backward.”

Praising the interest that the President and First Lady, Laura Bush, have taken in Burma, another of the handful of selected dissidents remarked, “He and Laura Bush do not just follow the Burma issue, but also personally believe in the cause of Burma.”

“Today was not just a showcase, it was totally business, with issues seriously discussed,” continued the one delegate on condition of anonymity. “The President emphasized Burma very much on this trip, more so than China and other regional countries.”

However, even the voice of this upbeat appraisal sounded a cautionary warning, telling Mizzima: “He [Bush] agrees that Burma’s political movement is homegrown and that Burma must solve its own problems. But the U.S. government will be at the forefront of support for such a movement.”

Further questioning just where the road ahead will lead, well-known observer Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein stipulated, “Bush wants to hear our opinions, and because of this it was helpful to some extent. Bush gave an ear to the ideas and experiences of those in attendance.”

Presenting an argument for increased engagement on the part of Washington with Naypyitaw, Chiang Mai-based political analyst Aung Naing Oo left disappointed. “Something like what I said didn’t go far.”

“They [George and Laura Bush] have made Burma a cause. U.S. policy is ethical, and you can’t expect much from ethical policy,” Aung Naing Oo added.

In his meeting with Burmese language media outlets that followed, Bush was pressed on whether the hardline stance of the United States was counter-productive; Bush decidedly dismissed any such notion.

As to whether the refusal of Burmese authorities to permit U.S. aid into the country following Cyclone Nargis in May was in direct response to a hostile U.S. policy, Bush postured, “He [Senior General Than Shwe] was in denial to an extent of realities on the ground.” Thus, the President reasoned, the junta’s reaction was not necessarily preordained by the U.S. position.

“I don’t think it would have been helpful to the Burmese if there had been a conflict over the delivery of aid,” the President proceeded in explaining the American unwillingness to directly intervene inside Burma for the purpose of aid delivery. “What we don’t want to do is compound a difficult situation. We were trying to make the problem better not worse.”

Continuing in his defense of current U.S. policy, “If I thought it [the lifting of sanctions] would…make…help us achieve the objective…you know…by changing the relationship with the government…you know…I’d give it serious consideration,” the President summarized regarding a sanctions platform he has consistently favored enhancing in the face of Burmese junta intransigence.

The President and First Lady are now on their way to Beijing – argued by many to be the Burmese junta’s most important supporter – to attend the opening ceremony of the 29th Summer Olympiad, a trip which Bush insists is entirely apolitical and dedicated solely to the love of sport.

But before leaving Bangkok Bush did tell the Burmese media, “I hope I can use my good relations with Chinese leadership to convince them that the way forward is for there to be more civic participation, citizen participation, in the future of the country [Burma].”

Describing his goal for Burma as the advent of “Burmese style democracy,” the President told his Burmese audience exactly what they can expect from the United States during his last months in office, “I make no promises to your listeners except that we will continue to try.”

Bush, Beijing and Burma

the Irrawaddy News

One day before the Beijing Olympics begin, President George W Bush and first lady Laura Bush meet with Burmese democracy activists in Thailand. The trip rightly draws attention to a matter China prefers the world would ignore—it’s propping up of one of the world's most brutal military dictatorships.

The trip also calls into question those in the United States, European Union and many countries in Asia who have for some years placed great hope in the idea that China will assume the role of a "responsible stakeholder" as it is increasingly integrated in the international community.

In the case of Burma, these hopes couldn't be more divorced from reality. China serves as Burma's financial, political, military and diplomatic backbone, working actively to derail international efforts at change. Without China’s help, the regime would have been forced into peaceful negotiations many years ago.

The stakes couldn't be higher for the Burmese people. While not as well-known as Idi Amin, Omar Al-Bashir, Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin, Burma's dictator Than Shwe rightly belongs in a rogue’s gallery of the worst dictators in history. Among other abuses, Than Shwe has locked up nearly 2,000 political prisoners, along with the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi.

He has ordered and carried out the destruction of a staggering 3,200 ethnic minority villages in Burma, forcing millions to flee as refugees and internally displaced people. To put this in a comparative perspective, this is twice as many villages as have been destroyed by Bashir's Janjaweed in Darfur. To make matters worse, when Buddhist monks marched on the streets in Burma last September calling for peace in the country, Than Shwe ordered his troops to shoot directly at the monks. Many monks were killed; many more were arrested, disrobed and tortured, along with leading dissidents and human rights activists.

I can personally testify to the horrors of Than Shwe's prison gulags. I was arrested and then imprisoned in Burma for more than four years, during which time I experienced firsthand many of the Burmese military regime's torture tactics. Severe beatings, starvation and electrocution are the order of the day. I still have nightmares about what happens behind Burma's bamboo curtain.

Many modern dictators who carry out atrocities on this scale are immediately faced with action from the United Nations. Peacekeepers may be dispatched, the UN Security Council might demand changes or a global arms embargo could be put in place. Yet, China has prevented any meaningful action at the UN via its veto power at the Security Council.

When France, the UK and the United States proposed a non-binding resolution in early 2007 that called on Than Shwe's regime to end its attacks against the Burmese people and engage in peaceful negotiations with the democracy movement, China vetoed the move.

When the military regime opened fire on the Buddhist monks, China permitted a truncated UN Security Council statement calling for change in Burma, only to backpedal the very same day.

Beyond stifling UN efforts at jump-starting peaceful negotiations in Burma, China has served as Than Shwe's key supplier of weapons for more than two decades, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, fighter jets, attack aircraft, coastal patrol ships, small arms and light weapons. With Chinese arms and military equipment, Burma's regime has quadrupled the size of its forces to 450,000 soldiers.

In return, Burma has granted China sweetheart deals on natural gas extraction. By some estimates, the Burmese regime ignored a superior Indian offer by $8.4 billion for
Burmese natural gas; the cheaper deal went instead to China. Unlike China, India can offer no respite to the regime from the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, the regime continues to plead for international humanitarian aid, shockingly siphoning off 10 to 15 percent for itself. Even after Cyclone Nargis recently devastated much of Southwestern Burma, the regime continued to line its own pockets, stealing millions of dollars in foreign assistance intended to help the most needed.

The President and first lady should raise these issues with President Hu Jintao when they arrive in China on August 8th, the 20-year anniversary of a massive popular uprising in Burma and the opening day of the Beijing Olympics.

Specifically, the President should ask President Hu to inform the Burmese military regime that unless Than Shwe enters into serious three-way negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's ethnic minorities, China will end its support for the Burmese dictator at the UN Security Council.

We hope the Bush meeting with Burmese dissidents—many of whom have been through hell in their peaceful struggle for democracy—will inspire him to press China to play the "responsible" role that the modern world expects.

Aung Din is the executive director of the US Campaign for Burma. A former political prisoner in Burma, he served more than four years imprisonment.

Conditions in Delta Far Starker Than Portrayed by Regime

The Irrawaddy News-AP

RANGOON — A rare bird's-eye look at Burma's Irrawaddy delta shows the devastation still left from Cyclone Nargis—broken levies, flooded farm roads, the shattered remains of bamboo huts and trees strewn like matchsticks along the coast.

Conditions are far starker than reflected in the assessments from Burmese government and even in the recent optimism of some UN officials, The Associated Press has concluded from a review of data, a private flight over the delta and interviews with victims and aid workers.

Three months after a disaster that claimed nearly 140,000 lives, thousands of villagers are still getting little or nothing from their government or foreign aid groups.

"We lost everything—our house, our rice, our clothes. We were given just a little rice by a private aid group from Rangoon. I don't know where the government or foreign organizations are helping people, but not here," said Khin Maung Kyi, a 60-year-old farmer who lost six children to the killer storm.

Some areas have received help in the delta, Burma's rice bowl set amid a lacework of waterways. During a flyover, brand-new metal roofs atop reconstructed homes glittered in the tropical sunlight, farmers in cone-shaped hats worked in green rice paddies, and gangs of workers struggled to remove debris from canals and repair broken embankments.

But progress is slow and behind where it should be.

"The situation in Myanmar [Burma] remains dire," said Chris Kaye, who heads relief operations for the UN World Food Program. "The vast majority of families simply don't have enough to eat."

Some grim recent statistics from foreign aid agencies working in the delta:

_ A survey of families in 291 villages showed that 55 percent have less than one day of food left and no stocks to fall back on. Some 924,000 people will need food assistance until the November rice harvest, while around 300,000 will need relief until April 2009.

_ The fishing industry, the delta's second-most-important source of income and food, remains devastated. More than 40 percent of fishing boats and 70 percent of fishing gear were destroyed and very little has been replaced.

_ More than 360,000 children will not be able to go to elementary school in coming months because at least 2,000 schools were so badly damaged they cannot reopen anytime soon.

"The vast majority of people have received some assistance. But very few people have received enough assistance to get them through the next three months, and almost no one has received enough assistance to enable them to rebuild their lives," said Andrew Kirkwood, who heads the aid agency Save the Children in Burma.

Kirkwood said three months after such a disaster, aid agencies would normally be rebuilding schools, health clinics and other facilities. But in Burma, he said, the first phase of emergency distribution of food and basics is likely to continue for another three months.

More upbeat assessments have come from other quarters. Some have noted that a second wave of death from disease and starvation anticipated by some relief agencies never occurred.

"It has gone much better than anyone expected," said Ashley Clements, a spokesman for World Vision, an international Christian relief and development agency, citing the resilience of the victims and the speed of the aid response.

"The message I want the world to know is that the government, UN agencies and other organizations ... are making good progress," said Ramesh Shrestha, a UN representative in Rangoon.

However, almost at the same time the UN's humanitarian news service, IRIN, published a report about conditions in the delta titled "Life is totally bleak." Chronicling the plight of several families, it noted that many people lack food and shelter.

Some foreign aid workers caution that their agencies refrain from exposing problems for fear the government will curb or halt their access to victims.

"Our operations are contingent on having a positive relationship with the government," said Kaye, the UN World Food Program chief in Burma. "So we have to work out a fine balance, so that the difficult issues are dealt with, but in a spirit of cooperation.

What we have learned over the years is that direct confrontation with the government is not the way to solve problems."

The United Nations' humanitarian chief, John Holmes, recently noted that the process of getting to the delta is "still more bureaucratic and unpredictable than in the ideal world." The extent of the devastation also remains unseen because access is most difficult further south and away from the main townships, areas that can only be reached through narrow waterways with very small boats.

"I think that's where the needs still are quite considerable and that's where we'll focus the relief efforts over the next few months," he said.

The recovery has been slowed by the military government's xenophobia and poor performance, the difficulties of operating in the delta and in one of the world's poorest countries, and the sheer magnitude of the calamity.

The United Nations says the government's foreign exchange system has resulted in the loss of as much as 25 percent of relief aid. This is because Burma requires the conversion of foreign aid money into Foreign Exchange Certificates at a set price and then into the country's national currency, the kyat. The certificates have been worth as much as 25 percent less than the market value of an equivalent number of dollars.

"This is a big concern," said Dan Baker, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Burma. "The donors aren't going to give us money if they know they will (lose) a percentage of that."

To date, relief funds from foreign donors have come to US $339 million, according to the United Nations.

Victims complain about the dearth of official assistance. The real post-cyclone heroes have proved to be individual donors, small private groups and Buddhist monks—some of whom have been harassed, curbed and sometimes arrested by the junta for their efforts.

The scale of the disaster would put even the most advanced nations to a severe test. According to a recent assessment, total damage in the delta and parts of Rangoon is estimated at $4 billion.

Meanwhile, many villagers continue to suffer—and are far less diplomatic about the military regime than some aid workers.

"I don't expect any help from the government. I just know that if I ask them for help I would have to give them something in return. But I have nothing now," said Khin Maung Kyi, the farmer from the delta area of Kungyangone.

All the storm left him were six acres of rice fields. But he no longer has children to work in the fields, and he and his wife are weak from the lack of food, blistering sun and monsoon rains.

"We have no plan for the future," he said. "The only thing we have to think about now is how to find food for tomorrow. Having enough food to eat like we had before seems to be a dream now."

Myanmar activists face visa problems in S'pore

SINGAPORE (ST)- AT least three Myanmar activists were forced to leave Singapore after authorities decided not to renew their visas in an apparent attempt to stop the group's pro-democracy work, another Myanmar activist said.

Mr Myo Myint Maung, a spokesman for the group, told Reuters on Friday that six Myanmar nationals are having trouble with their visas and three, including a student, were forced to leave Singapore recently after their various visas were not renewed.

The remaining three are Singapore permanent residents, which means they can stay in the city-state if they choose to.

But they will not be allowed to re-enter Singapore should they leave as their re-entry permits have not been extended.

All six were involved in an illegal protest last year against Myanmar's ruling military junta. Though not charged, they were let off with a warning. Protests are rare in Singapore and gatherings of four or more people require police permission.

Myo said the treatment of the activists was not justified.

'We are very puzzled. I cannot think of any reasonable explanation for their decision not to renew it,' he said.

Singapore's home ministry said in a statement that the right of a foreigner to work and stay in Singapore 'is not a matter of entitlement by political demand'.

'Foreigners who work or live here are expected to at least respect the law and local sensitivities in Singapore,' said a spokesman from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

According to the Singapore immigration website, the process to renew a re-entry permit into Singapore for a permanent resident only takes 30 minutes. (JEG's: they wait up to 6months and many times they cannot travel)

'It is usually a one-day process, but it has been pending for more than a month for some,' Mr Myo said.

Singapore is home to around 100,000 Myanmar nationals, the Straits Times newspaper reported earlier this year. -- REUTERS

Bush Warm, Knowledgeable on Burma, Say Activists

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK — US President George W Bush traded ideas about US economic sanctions on Burma, humanitarian aid after Cyclone Nargis and Chinese foreign policy during a private lunch with nine Burmese activists in Bangkok on Thursday.

“On China’s Burma policy, Bush said although the two countries cooperate with each other on many issues, the US and China have different interests in Burma,” said Win Min, a Burmese political analyst.

The activists told The Irrawaddy after the lunch at the US ambassador’s residence that Bush was very knowledgeable on Burma and the rest of Asia.

Bo Kyi, a joint-founder of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners-Burma, said, “He understands Burma and Asia. He also talked about his concern for political prisoners in Burma.”

The US president came across as a likeable, warm person, said one of the luncheon group, who represented a cross-section of Burmese interests groups.

The hour-long lunch included Burmese exiles Aung Zaw, the editor of The Irrawaddy and a former student activist; Kyaw Kyaw of the Political Defense Committee; and Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst.

The activists said the meeting was also an expression of the president’s wife’s personal interest in Burma. First lady Laura Bush on Thursday toured a Burmese refugee camp on the Thailand-Burma border and visited a free medical clinic that provides services to refugees.

When asked about the possibility of a six-party talk on Burma, similar to that held on North Korea, Bush said it would probably not be possible in Burma’s case, said one activist.

Michael W. Charney of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, asked to assess the meeting, said while it was a genuine expression of Bush’s commitment, it probably would lead to little change, partly because of his limited time in office.

“Certainly, it will help to keep some attention on Burma and to do so from within Thailand, which has of late been favorable toward the military regime in Naypyidaw. It helps to make the latter’s position a little more uncomfortable,” he said
It would be more meaningful if the dissidents had been talking to presidential hopefuls Barack Obama or John McCain, he said.

“We will have to wait to see if there will be any new US foreign policy initiatives that impact Burma, although I expect less change under McCain than under Obama.”

Analysts said the meeting was probably intended in part to balance out negative impressions from Bush’s participation in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, which will be held on Friday.

In a related event, more than 100 former Burmese activists, journalists and others commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Burmese 8.8.88 uprising at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Wednesday.

Four former student activists: Aung Moe Zaw, Aung Naing Oo, Aung Zaw and Myint Myint San, as well as Toe Toe, an ex-Burmese migrant worker who was four years old in 1988, presented a panel discussion. Dominic Faulder, a journalist who has written on Burma since 1981, served as a moderator.

Aung Zaw, who was detained as a student activist in March 1988, said, “The 8.8.88 uprising was not event, not an uprising, but a process. It was a political process in history.”

He said that he would like to honor the spirit of the people who died in the uprising. “Our struggle, our destination continues,” he said.

A Burmese political analyst in exile, Aung Naing Oo, who was a student in the English department of the University of Rangoon in 1988, said he didn’t even understand the word “democracy” at the beginning of the movement. “My brother asked me what was the meaning of democracy, and then I had to look it up in a dictionary,” he said.

Reviewing the 20-year period since the uprising, he said it has been “20 years of hopelessness.”

Aung Moe Zaw, the chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society, said that in 1988 people had romantic ideas about democracy and freedom, and now, he said, “We have lost opportunities.”

Thee Lay Thee, a Burmese comedy team, also performed and showed photographs of the military regime’s crackdown in 1988.

US First Lady visits Myanmar refugees

MAE LA REFUGEE CAMP, Thailand (AFP) — US First Lady Laura Bush, a vocal critic of Myanmar's junta, toured a refugee camp on Thursday and called on the military regime to open dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition.

Highlighting abuses in military-run Myanmar has been the chief cause of the first lady, and with her daughter Barbara she made her way through a muddy settlement which is home to tens of thousands who fled the junta's repression.

She thanked the Thai government for allowing the nine camps housing more than 120,000 refugees that string the border with Myanmar.

"If we could see a change in the Burmese government... people could move home in safety, that would be the best result," the first lady told camp leaders, referring to Myanmar by its previous name.

"The best solution would be if General Than Shwe's regime would start real dialogue," she said after being greeted by refugees performing song and dance in traditional dress.

About 35,000 refugees huddle in Mae La camp at the foot of forested mountains, which many risked their lives to cross in their desperation to flee military crackdowns on ethnic rebel armies in their homeland.

Mae La is on the site of the first refugee camp, which was set up in 1984 as Myanmar's army advanced into Karen state and forced thousands over the border.

Most refugees are from Myanmar's ethnic groups, including many Christians from the Karen minority, and the United States has pledged to resettle 26,811 of the refugees.

But Laura Bush said: "Most people do not want to have to move to third countries. They would rather move to their home villages in safety and security."

The first lady also visited Mae Tao Clinic, one of the few medical centres in Thailand where migrant workers from Myanmar can get free health care.

President George W. Bush, who arrived in Thailand on Wednesday, hailed his wife's efforts to highlight abuses in Myanmar, which has been ruled by the military since 1962 and keeps democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi locked up.

"We seek an end to tyranny in Burma," he said in a speech in Bangkok.

"This noble cause has many devoted champions, and I happen to be married to one of them... America reiterates our call on Burma's military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners."

The president also met with exiled Myanmar dissidents and politicians, a day before the 20-year anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising there which was crushed by the army, leaving 3,000 dead.

He told the exiles that American people "pray for the day in which the people (of Myanmar) will be free."

Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to election victory in 1990, but instead of recognising the result the junta kept her under house arrest, where she has now spent most of the last 19 years.

On Friday, activists in Myanmar will silently mark two decades since the August 8, 1988 uprising, when students led activists, Buddhist monks and even young military cadets onto the streets, only to face a massacre by the army.

Last year, protesters again poured onto the streets to rally against economic hardship and junta rule. This time, 31 people were killed in the resulting crackdown, the United Nations has said.

The United States has been the most vocal critic of the junta, and has a patchwork of economic sanctions against the regime. These sanctions were strengthened after the crackdown last September.

"We urge the Chinese to do what other countries have done to put financial sanctions on the junta," Laura Bush said, hours ahead of rejoining her husband in Bangkok and flying to Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games.

Arroyo urged to push for democratic reforms in Myanmar

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should push for the inclusion of democratic reforms in Burma in a future dialogue between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a self-exiled Burmese lawmaker said Thursday.

Khun Myint Tun said the Philippine government should not stop at demanding the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but push for political reforms in the military ruled Myanmar.

“We like the President’s attitude and statement but to demand only the release of Aung San Suu Kyi is not effective,” he said, referring to the President’s vow to seek Suu Kyi’s release in her national address last week.

“ASEAN should discuss Burma in a dialogue with China,” he said in a briefing, stressing that ASEAN and China play a key role in restoring democracy in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

“If there’s no dialogue, we will challenge the credentials of the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) at the UN. So the ASEAN, and especially Philippine government should support us,’’ he added.

Myint Tun, a member of the Parliament Union who won but was denied a seat in the 1990 national elections, made the appeal as Arroyo flew to Beijing for bilateral talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Supporters and allies of Suu Kyi are marking today the 20th anniversary of the August 8, 1988 crackdown on protesting students and monks that killed 3,000 in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has been held continuously by the ruling military junta since 2003.

The junta, which took power in 1988, called elections in 1990, but refused to recognize the results when Suu Kyi’s party won a resounding victory.

Quote on Freedom

''If we could see a change in the Burmese government,
people could move home in safety,''

--the US First Lady, Laura Bush
told camp leaders during her visit to Mae Sot
- 7Aug'08

US to keep pressure on Burma

Activists reassured of American support

Bangkok Post-AP

United States President George Bush yesterday vowed to continue exerting pressure on Burma's military regime. Mr Bush assured a group of 11 pro-democracy activists of America's support during a lunch meeting at the home of US ambassador Eric John on Witthayu road in Pathumwan.

The meeting was attended by Aung Naing Oo, a political activist who was involved in Burma's 8/8/88 pro-democracy uprising, which was crushed by the military.

He quoted Mr Bush as saying the Burmese regime was difficult to deal with.

In an interview with reporters, Mr Bush also pledged to complain to Chinese leaders about human rights abuses in Burma.

He also explained why a tough approach towards Burma was still needed.

''We have to be tough because we believe that the generals have been very stubborn in not allowing freedom, and we believe that is wrong,'' he said.

However, Aung Naing Oo, who is now based in Chiang Mai, suggested Washington go beyond exerting pressure on Burma over human rights.

''The US government should engage with the Burmese generals for the long-term strategy of democracy development in the country,'' he told Mr Bush.

Before having lunch with the Burmese dissident, Mr Bush gave his speech on the US policy towards Asia on the last day of his visit to Thailand to celebrate the 175th anniversary of bilateral relations between Bangkok and Washington.

His speech attacked the Burmese junta and also praised Thailand for being what he considered a leader in the region.

''I was proud to designate Thailand a major non-NATO ally of the United States,'' he said in the speech at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center on Ratchadaphisek road.

''And I salute the Thai people for the restoration of democracy, which has proved that liberty and law reign here.''

In between delivering the speech and having lunch with the Burmese activists, Mr Bush relived his school days.

He went to Klong Toey to visit the Mercy Centre, run by Father Joe Maier, which has a shelter for street children, four orphanages, a hospice and a home for mothers and children with HIV/Aids.

In an art class, Mr Bush grabbed a green coloured pencil and joined children in creating colourful artwork to decorate the walls. He autographed some of their pictures.

The children replied with a wai.

Mr Bush's wife Laura, a vocal critic of Burma's junta, toured the Mae La refugee camp in Tha Song Yang district in Tak and the Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot district, during which she called on the military regime to open dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition.

Highlighting abuses in military-run Burma has been the chief cause of the First Lady, and with her daughter Barbara she made her way through a muddy settlement which is home to tens of thousands who fled the junta.

She thanked the Thai government for allowing the nine camps, which house more than 120,000 refugees.

''If we could see a change in the Burmese government, people could move home in safety,'' the First Lady told camp leaders

''The best solution would be if Gen Than Shwe's regime would start real dialogue,'' she said after being greeted by refugees performing song and dance routines in traditional dress.

About 35,000 refugees huddle in the Mae La camp at the foot of forested mountains, which many risked their lives to cross in their desperation to flee military repression of ethnic minorities in their homeland.

Mae La is on the site of the first refugee camp, which was set up in 1984 as Burma's army advanced into Karen state and forced thousands over the border into Thailand.

The United States has pledged to resettle 26,811 of the refugees.

But Mrs Bush said: ''Most people do not want to have to move to third countries. They would rather move [back] to their home villages in safety and security.

''We urge the Chinese to do what other countries have done to put financial sanctions on the junta.''

Mrs Bush later rejoined her husband in Bangkok before flying to Beijing for today's opening of the Olympic Games

Burmese remain prisoners in their own country

By Michel Maas*
Radio Netherlands

The military junta in Myanmar celebrates its 20th anniversary on Friday. Four months ago, the regime survived cyclone Nargis unscathed. And it is still firmly in the saddle. Its iron grip over the Burmese people has not slackened for one second, however hard the international community tries to persuade the generals to soften their stance.

Since the cyclone devastated large parts of the country, international aid workers have not been allowed into the former Burma. The borders remain closed.

If the outside world kicks up enough fuss, a few are allowed in, but once inside the country their freedom of movement is seriously hampered. They have to work under the same strict conditions which have turned the population into prisoners in their own country for two decades.

The whole world has had to stand by and watch, completely powerless as the aid effort in the stricken area, where at least 84,000 people died, is frustrated and hindered. The generals shamelessly profit from the victims.

Aid supplies disappear and recently it was revealed that a quarter of foreign aid funds end up in the pockets of the country's leaders, who demand that the money is exchanged into the local currency Kyat - for a bogus exchange rate.

In a speech in Thailand, US President George W Bush has severely criticised the military regime in Myanmar. He said an end has to come to the 'tyranny' in former Burma. His wife Lara, a strong critic of the military junta in Thailand's neighbouring country, visited a refugee camp on Thursday with her daughter Barbara. She called on the Myanmar regime to start a dialogue with the opposition.

A popular comedian, Zarganar, who protests against the state of affairs, has been arrested and faces years in prison for "agitation". And the house arrest of the leader of the democratic movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, was recently extended in spite of protests at home and abroad.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been confined to her home for five years. In total she has spent more than twelve out of the last eighteen years under house arrest. Demonstrators who demand her freedom are taken away in lorries and disappear.

In short nothing has changed in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi

1988 was also the year Aung San Suu Kyi entered the political arena. The daughter of the legendary general Aung San happened to be visiting her sick mother in Myanmar during the protests. She became involved in the demonstrations and quickly became the symbol of the democratic movement.

In elections in 1990, the democratic opposition won a landslide victory over the generals under her leadership. The junta ignored the election result and restricted Aung San Suu Kyi to her house.

In 1991, she won the Nobel Prize for Peace. But that was no reason for the generals to release her. On the contrary, as a Nobel Prize winner she is even more dangerous than she already was. That is why her house arrest was extended again on 26 May this year, while the attention of the whole world was focussed on Myanmar.

If she were free she could use the foreign media to give power to the weak opposition. And if there is one thing the generals cannot stand it is serious opposition.

On Friday, it will be twenty years ago that the current military junta was born. The regime of generals came to power after a popular uprising was brutally suppressed. The revolt followed the resignation of dictator Ne Win, also a general, who had oppressed the Burmese for decades. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand democracy.

The day of the largest demonstration, 8 August 1988, ended in a bloodbath. Ne Win declared a state of emergency and forbid his troops to shoot over the heads of the demonstrators. They shot into the crowd of civilians and Buddhist monks. The army says 'a few' people died, all other sources say at least 3,000 people were shot dead.

The brutal suppression of street protests in September 2007 was reminiscent of the 1988 revolt. Only this time the number of victims was lower, because the whole world was watching, via footage on the internet.

*RNW Translation (nc)