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Saffron rebellion

Saffron rebellion
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First Published: Thu, Sep 27 2007. 01 19 AM IST

Updated: Thu, Sep 27 2007. 01 19 AM IST
Saffron rebellion
For profiles in courage, consider the inspiring demonstrations in Burma. On Monday, tens of thousands of Burmese marched in protest against a military regime that killed some 3,000 Burmese the last time this happened, in 1988. The US is trying to rally international support for their cause, but the UN and most Asian nations are once again missing in action…
The junta’s best friend is China, which provides the generals with trade and weapons. In return, Beijing gets first dibs on Burma’s natural resources, and dominates business in its poorer western provinces. In January, China vetoed a US-led resolution on Burma in the UN Security Council. On Tuesday, a Communist Party official confirmed that Beijing advocates “non-interference” in other nations’ affairs. If the Burmese generals do crack down on these peaceful protests, their international protectors will bear some of the responsibility.
A despotism called Myanmar
By dispatching troops into the streets and imposing a curfew, Myanmar’s cruel military junta has set the stage for a serious clash with pro-democracy activists. A firm and united international response along the lines outlined by President George W. Bush and the European Union at the UN (on Tuesday) offers the best hope of encouraging peaceful change in a nation that has endured a 19-year reign of fear. The question is whether the countries with the greatest influence on Myanmar’s generals—China, Russia and India, which all sell weapons to the army, as well as the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that are Myanmar’s immediate neighbours—have the good sense to condemn the repression and exert the pressures only they can wield with any hope of positive effect... There are some signs that China has urged restraint, but more must be done, including supporting UN sanctions on Myanmar...
Tipping point in Burma
Monday brought momentous and awe-inspiring news from one of the world’s most oppressed nations. Defying their military government, tens of thousands of Burmese marched through the centre of their largest city, Rangoon, as well as in more than two dozen other towns and cities… But Burma is not the Philippines or Indonesia, and Monday’s events were a cause for fear as well as joy among its long-suffering democratic opposition…
Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice spoke out against the regime on Sunday… But little had been heard publicly by Monday night from the governments whose words matter most—India, Japan and especially China, whose investments and diplomatic support have propped up the dictatorship for years.
Some Burma experts speculate that Beijing may be quietly restraining the generals... But silent Chinese diplomacy and familiar US denunciations are not likely to be enough…
Time for action on Burma
It takes a particularly inept military regime to turn one of the world’s best-endowed countries, located close to the biggest and hottest economies, into an economic basket case. Yet this is what the generals who have run Burma for 45 years have consistently managed to do. The Burmese people don’t enjoy much from their country’s rich agricultural lands, its forests, its gems, its recent oil and gas discoveries...
The junta gains its space by skilfully playing off China and India. It persuaded the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) that by admitting Burma, the grouping could induce its leaders to reform. Then they hid behind Asean’s doctrine of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Now a new Burmese protest has burgeoned, headed by the Buddhist clergy. The country is poised between progress and bloody suppression. It is a time for maximum pressure, on the generals and on their friends in places like Beijing...
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First Published: Thu, Sep 27 2007. 01 19 AM IST