Guardian – Comment is free – Struggling alone<br/> The international community’s failure to act means watching helplessly as victims of repression in Burma are consigned to their fate. by Václav Havel
On a daily basis, at a great many international and scholarly conferences all over the world, we can hear learned debates about human rights and emotional proclamations in their defense. So how is it possible that the international community remains incapable of responding effectively to dissuade Burma’s military rulers from escalating the force that they have begun to unleash in Rangoon and its Buddhist temples?
For dozens of years, the international community has been arguing over how it should reform the United Nations so that it can better secure civic and human dignity in the face of conflicts such as those now taking place in Burma or Darfur, Sudan. It is not the innocent victims of repression who are losing their dignity, but rather the international community, whose failure to act means watching helplessly as the victims are consigned to their fate.
The Times – ‘Loving kindness’ will beat the generals, by Maung Zarni (founder of the Free Burma Coalition and a visiting research fellow at Oxford)
The vocation of the Buddhist Order is certainly other-worldly. But in their role as citizens, their agenda is unequivocal: democracy. A protesting monk poignantly summed it up: “I’d rather have democracy for our people than nirvana for myself.” For the monks, democracy will mean the right to change the rulers peacefully and to improve the economic conditions of the people.
Since the bloody crackdown of 1988 the great majority of Burmese people have shifted their attention to other-worldly matters. Their immediate realities teach them to be more mindful of Buddhist teaching: all life is suffering. A cursory look at everyday survival would suffice: poverty, oppression, institutionalised abuse of power, endemic corruption and related moral decay, loss of regional standing as a country, malnutrition, ill-health, ineffectual education, ecological degradation and the wasting of natural resources such as timber, oil and natural gas. That is why, crucially, other local ethnic communities of Christian, Muslim, and other non-Buddhist faiths have thrown in their lot with the monks.
(Isn’t that why Western Civ haters hate Christianity, because it keeps people happy with the iniquities inherent in the system? So shouldn’t they react equally to a system turning Buddhism into the same thing?)
Like the Buddhist order, the rank and file of the Armed Forces is primarily drawn from poor farming communities or urban working classes. The greatest tragedy is that the machinegun-toting rural sons in green or grey uniform are shooting and killing their brethren in saffron, brown or orange robes, armed only with Metta Suttra or the prayer for Universal Loving Kindness.
(Interesting that the greatest tragedy of an violent armed retribution to an already oppressed people is that we can’t make it into a class war. Maybe because that’s something the self-loathing International Community can get behind?)
Given Burma’s staunch support from Beijing, with its unquenchable thirst for Burma’s energy resources, as well as the support of the veto-wielding Russia, the international community has so far not been powerful enough to strong-arm the “bogus Buddhists” in power to find a peaceful resolution. But now the monks’ movement has successfully put Burma at the top of the UN agenda.
In the days to come the junta is likely to continue to show restraint and to make sure that people stay at home so it does not have to resort to force. Any shows of greater brutality will persuade China to cooperate more seriously with the West.
No matter how the current crisis on the streets is resolved, one thing is clear. Burma has changed. The public will reject resoundingly any false claims from the junta of “democratisation” when legitimate and peaceful political parties are not allowed to operate freely; or claims of “economic development” when there is no sign of reform. The monks are winning. A new dawn is on the horizon.