Monday, September 29, 2008

Burma - One Year On

One year after the uprising in Burma [Myanmar], i am drawn, with many others, to recall the difficulties there.
I remember watching the whole thing unfold on TV in as much as we received any pictures at all. Some footage was secretly shared with the world and many stories eventually trickled out.

I had to pinch myself and come to terms with the fact that there are still places like Burma in the world - a beautiful, humble, compassionate people, oppressed by a military dictatorship who ruthlessly exploit the labour of the workforce and the natural resources of the land.

The average person is so down-trodden they dare not protest or step out of line in any way.
And that is why things got so bad it was up to the Buddhist monks to take to the streets and lead the protest in the vague hopes that they would not be beaten by the soldiers, out of respect.

They were wrong.

There were many beatings and disappearances. The military junta even resorted to the age-old trick of soldiers dressing up as monks and perpetrating violent and chaotic acts in order to rationalise and substantiate their brutal response.

At the time, one year ago, the citizens were so hungry that when they brought small portions of food to the monasteries as alms for the monks [who rely on daily food donations], the monks were so moved that they simply returned the compliment by offering the food back to the emaciated alms-givers.
This had never happened before or been so necessary in the country's history.

The protesting monks made their way across Rangoon every day they could. They walked in lines, as usual, solemnly, embodying peace and compassion with great dignity.
However, some days, the younger monk were so frustrated they resorted to angry shouting and rabble-rousing, and taunting the soldiers.

One day the monks even managed to make their way as far as Aung San Suu Kyi's residence, where she remains under house arrest [she became Burma's elected leader, when it looked like democracy had a chance there].
They chanted and sang songs to her through the railings, across the grounds, but she has not been seen in public for years.

Then all went ominously quiet.

There has not been any fresh information for the international press to report regarding the Burmese struggle for democracy - and the U.N. continues to be able to achieve precious little there.

Of course, next came the horrendous devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis, as if this poor nation hadn't already suffered enough. The international community were, for the most part, kept out of Burma despite their best efforts to bring aid to the people.

Nowadays, the picture continues to appear grim.
Not much has changed or improved although the military government is making great strides forward with its building of the proposed new capital city, Nay Pyi Taw. .

According to the BBC News website,

While millions are still suffering from the cyclone, or battling to pay the increasing cost of food and fuel, glistening new offices are being built, along with six-lane highways, golf courses and even a zoo with an air-conditioned penguin house.

But, it is said, all is not yet lost.
Rather, we should consider the monastic protests of last year as a 'wake up call' for Burma's junta, and continue to put pressure on them wherever possible.
Likewise we must keep Burma alive in the public consciousness here in the west.
So today, sitting by the window, looking into my autumnal garden of Buddhas, jasmine blossoms, and grasses, i hold the Burmese in my heart and wish for them all the freedom and goodness they so richly deserve.

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