Oh dear God. Well, the army decided to crack down on the Buddhist monks protesting in Burma. The monks have chose to continue protesting. Thousands of civilians chose to join them, defying tear gas and bullets. At least one person appears to be dead so far, as many as five deaths have been reported. In that sense, still small potatoes compared to the violence in the world. In the other sense, it is shall we say, a bit unusual to have a population rise up against their government in mass protest.
The west has made a lot of noise, and the UN will be meeting to make more noise. Because frankly this could get very ugly very fast. Unfortunately though, there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it. In a perfect world, governments would be held to some sort of standard, in the real world it’s politics as usual. And in that perfect world, Burma would also be a thriving Southeast Asian nation. Instead, a country that was poised after World War Two to be a great success because of education, infrastructure, and resources…stagnated for decades under a series of incompetent socialist or military governments. It is now one of the world’s least developed nations. And yes, at least one could claim that’s not entirely a bad thing.
What else to know? Burma is smaller than Texas and bigger than Afghanistan. They did have elections in 1990 or so, but the army refused to step down and the wildly popular opposition leader who won the election in a landslide, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest since. And that’s where we are now, while the monks and the army face each other down in the streets of Burma. (Or Myanmar as the army likes to call the country.)
What to do? Sanctions usually hurt the people more than their leaders, but that doesn’t stop them from being used under the “we have to do something” theory that seems to govern so much human activity. Invasions have kind of a bad smell to them now due to a few recent unfortunate events, so no one is making those noises. The UN will meet soon, some good might come of it. NYC can probably use the tourist dollars at least.
What will happen? Beats me. Probably a whole lot of people will get shot, and things will resume more or less as before. Possibly the crowds will swell, and/or troops will refuse to shoot or even join the protest. The end for the military junta could come very quickly then. There’s a chance something else could happen, like the junta stepping down immediately while the going is good. The smart money though is on the ugly scenarios. Sigh.
Anyhow, this developing story is very upsetting to me, so I’m going to keep an eye on it. This is the ultimate true battle between good and evil on the planet, not the trumped up ethnic, religious, and political nonsense governments and ideologues come up with to justify their polices. Should people get a meaningful say in who rules them? Damn straight, but it can be a messy process sometimes. God help the people of Burma help themselves.
(The above image of monks facing police in the streets of Burma is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and it is an historically important image. Credit: Reuters.)