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Burma

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Bobber:
As I travelled to this country in 2000, I'm currently following the news about Burma. The country has been led by a military government for decades now. It once was one of the richest countries in the area, but today it is one of the poorest. Women and children (and men as well of course) are forced to do work on the roads and people are extremely frightened to speak up. And they have a point, for many have 'disappeared' thoughout the years. The situation became more prominent after Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobelprize for peace a couple of years ago. Not that the situation improved.
In the last week, Buddhist monks (and there's lots of them in the country. Every family has a boy who's a monk) have taken the initiative to protest against the government by walking with thousands through the streets of the big cities of Rangoon and Mandalay. The army is reluctant to react, but violence is to be expected. There were mass protest in 1988 and the army shot unarmed civilians. About 3,000 were killed. But now, the monks have stood up and that is an interesting move. Of course, they represent the religion and the spirit of the country. Shooting monks will almost certainly raise an enormous protest. Looks a bit like the way Ghandi was doing his thing.
I might be the only one concerned about this, but hey, I thought I'd share it anyway. Any thoughts, anybody?

Kevin:
As a rule of thumb I've always believed that governments cannot exist longterm without some form of support. Even in oppressive states support is somewhere - whether its tribal, or rural peasantry blah blah. I don't think even military juntas can exist longterm against the will of all its citizens.
I don't know much about Burma. But my question would be is: are these demonstrators from a particular tribe (who aren't benefiting from the regime), or urbanites who would be odds with the rural peasants (who may support the government.)?
I struggle with the thought of a regime existing "for decades" without some groundswell of support somewhere.

BlueMeanie:
Apparently students were marching on Tuesday, but I haven't heard of any violence yet. I too cannot see any future for a military led regime that has no support from the natives. A decently organised mass rebellion could create enough of a stir around the world to instigate change. So there must be support from somewhere. I see once again President Bush is increasing sanctions, and urging other nations to do the same. So the innocent will suffer once again.

By the way, why has it suddenly become Burma again, and not Myanmar?

Bobber:
Thanks for the input. Burma is simply a better-known name. People (more or less) know that. Myanmar: a lot of people probably have never heard of that, although it is the official name of the country.
The junta has been strongly supported by China over the years. Of course, some natives probably supported the junta as well. But it's a fact that there's Chinese (or Chinese related) people on important positions, everywhere (even in the smallest villages) in the country. There's spies everywhere and people are frightened to death to stand up. Compare it to North Korea: people are brainwashed. They're told that America is bad and that there's nothing as good as the place where they live. There's no internet access in Myanmar, people don't know because they cannot know. They were very happy (and hospitable) to meet us, foreigners. Because we were their contact with the outside world. Even tho we somehow supported the junta with the money we spent in the country, it gave us a good feeling to speak behind closed doors with the people. That is, those who knew English of course. A lot of them just smiled when we asked about the situation, a smile with a meaning. They wanted to talk, but you could never tell who was wrong and who was right.

Kevin:
Interesting to note that the Burmese Army (half a million strong) is a completely volunteer force. I can't find anything to say whether the recruits are drawn from a particular ethnic group (Burma has had ethnic insurgencies and unrest almost continuosly (sp) since 1948)

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