Focus on Myanmar and Action Items

"More than 100,000 people flooded the streets of Myanmar's biggest city on Monday, joining Buddhist monks in the strongest show of dissent against the ruling generals in nearly two decades. In swelling tides of humanity, two major marches snaked their way through the nation's commercial capital led by robed monks chanting prayers of peace and compassion, witnesses said."

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That was Monday. This is today:

Nine people have been killed amid a crackdown on anti-government protesters in Burma's main city of Rangoon, state television reports.

It said the dead included eight protesters and a Japanese man, later identified by Japan's APF News as a video journalist. Eleven demonstrators and 31 soldiers were injured, state media said. The deaths came on the 10th day of protests, led by the country's Buddhist monks, against Burma's military rulers.
The monks are leading a protest against Myanmar's (Burma's) military rulers—"three generals wielding almost absolute power"—whose decision to double the price of fuel last month triggered the current protests, as the people of the impoverished nation simply could not bear the increase. The proverbial camel's back was broken.

The peaceful protests have inevitably been met with the iron fist of the generals, with raids on monasteries and arrests of members of the National League for Democracy, the pro-democracy protest party founded by 62-year-old political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, an amazing and interesting figure, whose National League for Democracy won elections in a landslide almost two decades ago, but was never allowed to assume power. The daughter of Burmese independence hero Aung San, who was himself assassinated, Suu Kyi is beloved by the people of Myanmar and known as "The Lady."

Ordinary Burmese regard her with a reverence that the regime has never been able to reduce, despite regularly denouncing her — although rarely by name — as a tool of foreign powers.

Instead, seeing a foreigner on the streets of Rangoon, people will discreetly approach, whisper "I like The Lady", and move on before they are seen holding a conversation.

…She is the world's only detained Nobel peace prize laureate, having spent 12 of the last 17 years in various forms of custody, but has always insisted on non-violence as the way to "freedom from fear", the title of one of her books.

"It is not power that corrupts but fear," she said. "Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those subject to it."
And fear now grips Yangon:

Red-robed Buddhist monks who had led several days of marches were largely absent from the streets Thursday after soldiers raided monasteries the night before. Monks reportedly were beaten and taken into custody or confined to the monasteries.

"This morning, around noon, we went around the city and we saw that most of the monasteries were locked and we saw some of the monks inside," the American witness said. "So the government is keeping them locked because they don't want them to go out and protest anymore."

She said the soldiers used batons, rifle butts and riot shields to beat the protesters.

"It was a crowd of, I would say, around 2,000 people, between 2,000 and 3,000 people today, and they ... put 10 monks in front of them as a human shield. But the police didn't care. They just came and started even beating the monks," she said.

Streets that had been jammed with as many as 100,000 protesters were deserted by 6 p.m. after the violent crackdown, the witness said.

"Right now it's a ghost town. I mean, nobody's outside. Everybody is so afraid," she said.
Everybody is afraid. She went on to plead for help from the international community: "Please, these people need help. It's inhumane what's happening here."

In a risky phone call to CNN from the heart of the protests, a Myanmar citizen who asked not to be named for security reasons described a deteriorating scene in the streets.

"People are shot and they are running. The soldiers shoot the people...some people are walking on the street and shouting," she said, adding she witnessed government troops shooting a man.

"No one can help us. We have no weapons," she said over a bad connection. The military junta "have weapons and they are doing what they want. We have no rights."
She, too, appealed to the international community.

"We don't want that kind of government. Who can help us? Who can help us? I want (United Nations) or many nations to help us," she said before the line cut out.
Find out what you can do to help here and here.

Here is a list of companies to avoid supporting because they do business in Burma, and it is "impossible to conduct any trade or engage in other economic activity with Burma without providing direct or indirect support, mostly financial, to the military junta," who allow all manner of human rights and labor abuses, and utilize sexual violence as a means of control.

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