All eyes on Burma’s monk power
We have learned of tens of thousands of monks’ recent peaceful street protests challenging the decades old rule of the military junta. The internet brought us images and stories about the events.
Many see the development as a turning point of Burma’s history.
Is this show of monks’ power bound to follow the Philippines EDSA people power and Indonesia’s student power?
We shall see. The world is watching closely. Even from Mindanao, thousands of miles away, the view is clear. There’s going to be long, turbulent, and historic days ahead. My interest on Burma stemmed from a month-long visit to Thailand in 2005 as part of an internship program of the South East Asia Press Alliance.
The interneship gave me a chance to learn with Shan, Mon, and Karen journalists from Burma who are now based in Northern Thailand. Shan, name of a people, is also name of a Burma state where these people came from.
My encounters were not just with journalists. I have met former Shan rebels who fought the military in decades-old rule in Burma. I faced many of them with the scars of war. Many of the Karenis I met were victims of landmines.
Most of whom I met, however, were ordinary people forced to migrate to Thailand because of the economic and political situation in their country. I’ve heard their fierce and painful stories of crossing the border over long days and nights of hunger, fatigue and danger. I have met one of their young women leaders who was sneaked out of Burma via a basket carried by her mother on a horse-back escape.
Most of them received attention from the Thai government in various “refugee camps” near the Burma-Thailand border.
It could have been better if Thai authorities see them as refugees. But even if they dwell in crowded and so-called refugee camps, their status are “economic migrants.” International laws give more protection to refugees than migrants.
Anyway, my brief sojourn in Northern Thailand served as my foray into understanding the Burma situation. Until then, Burma was just a country of elephants carrying logs and of course Buddhist temples.
Burmese Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle for democracy via her National League of Democracy is not the only political movement in Burma. Burma’s states, representing different tribes and cultures, are also struggling for self-determination with Rangoon. Rangoon did not honor the 1947 Panglong Agreement for the federal states to govern by their own in 10 years.
Sixty years later today, the federal states are still tied to Rangoon’s neck plus the ills of military rule.
Naomi Mann, a contributor to the Shan Herald Agency for News in Chiang Mai, Thailand has this interview with NLD members for some insights on what is happening inside Burma. In this interview, we will read about the importance of ASEAN’s renewed call for Myanmar to relax its grip over Burma and the pressing call for dialogue inside.
I remain a distant observer of the situation in Burma.
I just hope that someday I can enter the country as a journalist and write accounts from there. Of course, I hope that the situation then will be much better. (Photo courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma)