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The Myanmar junta’s violent crackdown on peaceful protestors

Updated On: Sep 28, 2007

The military junta has done what was feared.

It has cracked down on the demonstrations with force.

On Wednesday (26 September) 100,000 people went to the streets in protest, defying the military government. Unlike previous days, the police and military blocked the road leading to Shwedagon Pagoda. They fired tear gas and warning shots to break up the crowds. Several of the protestors were also beaten by the police..

The government imposed a curfew from 6pm to 6am. In the night, the police raided several monasteries. About 200 monks have been reportedly detained. There have also been reports that Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved.

Three monks have been confirmed dead on Wednesday. The Myanmar government has confirmed one dead in the official media. The Myanmar official media- the New Light of Myanmar asserts that some of the protestors were forced into participation. The New Light of Myanmar reported that 8 policemen were wounded and 1 protestor killed.

Despite the crackdown on Wednesday, protests continued on Thursday (27 September).  The government reacted with even more force killing at least five people, including a Japanese photographer, inYangon on Thursday.

Yangon-based diplomats were called to a meeting with a deputy foreign minister in Myanmar's new capital, Naypyidaw. They were told “'the government was committed to showing restraint in its response to the provocations', as he called them.”

International reactions were generally negative. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a strongly-worded statement that ‘the whole world is now watching Burma’ and called for a UN envoy to be sent there to talk to the ‘illegitimate and repressive regime.’ The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on Wednesday (26 September) to discuss the situation in Myanmar. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decided to send Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Myanmar.

Perhaps as an indication of growing concern, China at last joined in the call of the international community for “calm, peace”  and issued its first public call on Burmese leaders to show “restraint in handling the protestors”. ASEAN foreign ministers also issued a rare rebuke to Burma on Thursday demanding the military junta immediately stop using violence against pro-democracy protestors.  Issuing a statement on behalf of the other ASEAN foreign ministers, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said that they were “appalled” to receive reports of violence use against demonstrators and expressed “their revulsion to Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win. ASEAN also urged Burma to “exercise restraint and seek a political solution … and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy”.

The Thai government discouraged its citizens from travelling to Myanmar. The Thai Defence Minister Gen Boonrawd Somtas has also indefinitely postponed a scheduled visit (on Thursday 27 September) in which he was to strengthen military ties with the ruling junta there. The Bangkok Post expressed its frustration at the Thai government for being preoccupied with explaining to the world its own democratic transition and neglecting the issue of Myanmar.

The Jakarta Post slammed the Indonesian and the other ASEAN governments for not doing enough on the issue of Myanmar. It wrote, “Shame on them if they [ASEAN leaders] continue to defend the bloody junta.”

The Indian government shifted its stance slightly, breaking its silence on MyanmarIndia Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern on Wednesday, calling for dialogue, and a ‘broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform.’ India, unlike China, has escaped international criticism for not doing enough.

However, an Indian Foreign Ministry official cautioned, “It is like hedging one's bets….. I really don't think there has been a major shift in our position… We probably kept quiet all this while because this regime was not faltering so far. But after yesterday, it is all up in the air. There is also the pressure of the EU-U.S. resolution.”

The crackdown has been long feared. In 1988, the military regime killed 1,000 protestors and another 3,000 protestors in the subsequent weeks. The question now is who will back down first- the military or the protestors. The longer the stand-off, the bloodier the end it will be.  (28 September 2007)

Sources:

Beijing at last joins the call for calm, peace (The Nation online, 28 September 2007)

Asean in a rare rebuke to Burma (Bangkok Post, 27 September 2007)

Myanmar Clash Escalates, Posing Challenge To China (Wall Street Journal Asia27 September 2007)

Myanmar junta says shows "restraint" on protests (Reuters, 27 September 2007)

Further Casualties Reported In Protests (Democratic Voice of Burma27 September 2007)

S’pore ‘Deeply Troubled’ (Straits Times, 27 September 2007)

Crackdown In Myanmar (Straits Times, 27 September 2007)

Air Force On Standby To Evacuate Thais (Bangkok Post, 27 September 2007)

Govt Neglects Crisis In Burma (Bangkok Post, 27 September 2007)

RI Urges Military Restraint In Myanmar (Jakarta Post, 27 September 2007)

Shame on ASEAN (Jakarta Post, 27 September 2007)

ANALYSIS-India Breaks Silence On Myanmar, Hedges Its Bets (Reuters, 27 September 2007)

Some Monks And People Enter Homes (New Light of Myanmar26 September 2007)

Protestors Throw Stones At Members Of Security Forces And Use Catapults (New Light of Myanmar26 September 2007)