Socialist Worker

Rebellion rocks Burma as protesters defy repression

Issue No. 2071

A monk fleeing the crackdown by Burma

A monk fleeing the crackdown by Burma's regime (Pic: » moemaka.blogspot.com)


Last week saw Burma's military junta struggling to put down a rebellion of monks and ordinary people flocking onto the streets to protest against political repression and demand democracy.

Christina Fink works with Burmese refugees who have fled to neighbouring Thailand. She spoke to Socialist Worker last weekend.

Christina said, 'The size of the demonstrations in the major city of Rangoon has reduced significantly from early last week, when over 100,000 monks and civilians marched peacefully through the city.

'On Thursday of last week troops began brutally attacking demonstrators and onlookers – even pulling people out of teashops on the sides of the streets and beating them up.

'As many as 1,000 monks were arrested and taken away from their monasteries. Many were badly beaten and at least three were killed.

'The state media has confirmed a total of ten deaths – civilians, monks and foreigners – but embassy officials in Rangoon believe that the death toll is much higher.'

This repression has dampened down the demonstrations, she said. 'Given the heavy security presence on the streets in Rangoon this past weekend – and the soldiers' threats to kill protesters – many people have retreated to their homes.'

But in other towns the security presence has been lighter and demonstrations have continued to take place.

'Last Saturday there were demonstrations in the town of Kyaukpadaung, with an estimated 1,000 monks leading 30,000 protestors. In Sittwe some 50 monks led 5,000 protestors. In Mandalay an estimated 5,000 monks and civilians demonstrated, and in Mogok there were an estimated 8,000 protesters.'

Despite the repression, the demonstrations could flare up again. 'People are deeply outraged by the way that the soldiers have treated the monks. The demonstrations could explode in Rangoon again.

'Many people feel like they must take this chance to push for change. There is the possibility of splits in the military – many military commanders do not want to shoot the people.'

There is also the danger of a humanitarian crisis, Christina warns. 'Currently, the World Food Programme's trucks are not able to get its emergency rations to people in ethnic minority areas who depend on this food for their survival.'

Christina Fink is author of Living Silence: Burma Under Military Rule published by Zed Books


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