The unrest and demonstrations are continuing in Burma and it appears that the regime there has ratcheted up the measures they’re taking to suppress them:
YANGON, Myanmar – Soldiers clubbed and dragged away activists while firing tear gas and warning shots to break up demonstrations Friday before they could gain momentum. Troops also occupied Buddhist monasteries and cut Internet access, raising fears that a deadly crackdown was set to intensify in Myanmar.
The government said 10 people have been killed since the violence began earlier this week, but diplomats say the toll is likely much higher. Dissident groups have put the number as high as 200, although that number could not be verified.
Witnesses said security forces aggressively broke up a rally of about 2,000 people near the Sule Pagoda in the largest city, Yangon. About 20 trucks packed with soldiers arrived and announced over loudspeakers, “We give you 10 minutes to move out from the road. Otherwise we will fire.”
A group of about 10 people broke away from the main crowd and rushed toward a line of soldiers. They were beaten up, and five were seen being hauled away in a truck.
Soldiers dispersed the other protesters, beating them with clubs and firing shots in the air.
“People in this country are gentle and calm. (But) people are very angry now and they dare to do anything,” said a shopkeeper, who witnessed the clash and did not want to be named for fear of reprisal.
I wish the news media would connect the dots for us a little more. For example,monks typically means something a little different in Buddhism than in Christianity and the use of the term without further explanation is probably confusing to American readers. For example, it’s my understanding that in Buddhism being a monk is more a role than in Christianity where it’s seen as a vocation.
I’ve long been skeptical about the reality of Tom Barnett’s Core and Gap and it seems to me that the events unfolding in Burma provide a real world real time test. If China can, indeed, be characterized as New Core, that should be manifest in Chinese efforts to pacify the situation there. If, on the other hand, what appears to be Core and Gap are merely other words for the old spheres of influence notion, as I’ve suggested elsewhere (one of these days I’ll have to complete that series of posts), it will be obvious by China’s silence. They’ll be content as long as Burma continues to stay within the Chinese sphere of influence, which it will as long as its major competitors stay out and the regime in place is a Chinese client.
Pundita has been commenting on this story valiantly. Check in on her for frequent updates.
PJ Media hails the monks and pro-democracy Burmese bloggers:
While the Junta play “Whack-a-Mole” with the bloggers their violent crackdown on the red robed Monks has backfired in ways they never imagined. Within Burma the images of bloodied tiles in monasteries and troops charging crowds of unarmed civilians has only furthered the pro-democracy movement’s cause and increased its popularity. The same bloggers have also opened a window on Burma for the world to see into.
That’s consistent with the prevailing narrative at PJM but I think I would restrain my enthusiasm a little. Monks and bloggers are only important if the regime gives a damn about what the world thinks. Does the present Burmese regime? Do they need to?
My view of the various color revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East is that they depended for their effectiveness on facing bureaucrats rather than soldiers or revolutionaries.
More on citizen journalism in Burma from the Wall Street Journal’s blog:
The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders says that many of the people sending reports out of Yangon are former journalists and activists, some of whom have at some point been jailed for their work. “They do it because they are part of the struggle,” says the group’s Asia program director, Vincent Brossel.
Myanmar is hardly a technological hub. Cellphones are expensive, and the Internet penetration rate is less than 1%. Even before the recent clash, the government has taken serious steps to censor Internet content, blocking access to popular foreign news and email services. A 2005 report by the Open Net Initiative, run out of several universities, said that Myanmar’s State Peace and Development Council has implemented “one of the world’s most restrictive regimes of Internet control.”
Yet activists and students in Burma have become particularly skilled at using technological tricks to bypass those restrictions — some of them borrowed from China, where the government also censors the Internet. These include using proxies, which create a hole in the censorship network by connecting directly to one computer outside the country.
Reporters Without Borders says that at 3 p.m. yesterday, authorities disconnected most of the country’s cellphone lines, preventing journalists and demonstrators from reporting on events. Authorities have also closed some Internet cafes in Yangon, effectively shutting down many blogs and Web sites.
We’ll need to wait and see if, in the final analysis, it makes any difference. The pen may be mighter than the sword but the sword tends to speak louder at any given moment.