By Kevin A. Stoda
Since 10,000 Burmese monks made the Voice of America Radio news, I thought I would enquire how many readers know of Burma and the people's suffering and struggle there.???
Too few Americans can find Burma on the world map. This is partially because a military regime, called SLORC, changed the name of this ancient land a few years ago.
Burma is still located between India and Thailand and has been economically and socially stagnant under the extended elite regime's leadership of the past 5 decades. Most "people in the know" and "lovers of Burma" refuse to call the country Myanmar in support of the many indigenous peoples and monks who have bravely fought SLORC and its supporter, but they have been put down many times. All around the border of the country of Burma are dozens of refugee camps-some 4 or more decades old.
I visited one of the camps on the border near Mae Sot, Thailand a decade ago. I met very wonderful Burmese-Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Chin, Shan, Mon and others-many more have been forced to live in jails, enslavement, or live abroad in exile over a very long period of time. They are fantastic people. I was even blessed to donate money and medicines to the humble yet famous Dr. Cynthia's Clinic.
It was an honor to meet Dr. Cynthia for a few minutes in 1994. Read her tale in a review of Journey of the Heart: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/special/burma/cythia.html
In the early and mid-1990s, there were regular reports that whole Burmese villages or--in some cases-only healthy youths-were being forced at gunpoint to carry out lengthy duties and build roads for the SLORC soldiers. U.S. companies, like Unical and Chevron Oil , have continued to be allied with the SLORC regime as have several European and Asian firms.
These companies are still there despite the fact that an executive order was issued in 1997 banning U.S. firm involvement in Burma/Myanmar.
DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI
One of the more famous individuals from Burma is Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned by the SLORC government in Burma for most of the past two decades. Suu Kyi led a successful & peaceful election campaign to oust the military dictators in 1990, but the elections were thrown out by the military junta.
As is occurring in Burma today in 2007, many Burmese Buddhist monks in 1990 had begun to protest the government's behavior by refusing to accept alms from the military personnel of the land. The government repressed even the monks at that point.
Meanwhile in 1991, the world community called on the Noble Prize Committee to select Aung San Suu Kyi as Peace Prize winner. This, in fact, did occur.[Get to know Suu Kyi by checking out one of the websites on her below in the NOTES section of this writing.]
GEOGRAPHY OF PROTEST: BURMA
For the fifth day in a row monks in the capital of Rangoon, thousands of orange-dressed monks have been marching and demanding respect from the national government and military in Myanmar/Burma.
Why is this marching happening now in Burma?
In short, "[T]he protest movement began Aug. 19 after the government raised fuel prices, but has its basis in long pent-up dissatisfaction with the repressive military regime. Using arrests and intimidation, the government had managed to keep demonstrations limited in size and impact, but they gained new life when the monks joined." This week, Aung San Suu Kyi was able to wave at the 10,000 monks who marched by her home, where she has been under house arrest for far too long.According to an Australian reporter, "The monks also strike a strong chord of public sympathy by gathering at the Shwedagon [pagoda], which is not only a religious centre but also a historical focal point for social and political protests. Student strikers against British colonial rule gathered there in the 1920s and 30s, and the country's independence hero, Gen. Aung San, took up the same cause there in a famous 1946 speech."