Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, October 01, 2007

Burmese Junta Kills Thousands To Stay In Power

The short-lived Saffron Revolution may be over in Burma, the Daily Mail (UK) reports:
Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand. ...

The 42-year-old chief of military intelligence in Rangoon's northern region, added: "I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks onto trucks.

"They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this."

If Win's charges are true, the thousands of dead speak very little of the Junta's real power. It is very, very easy to kill pacifistic Buddhist monks. It is very, very easy to kill crowds of thousands armed with nothing more than signs and slogans. It is much harder to justify your continued power after you've done such things, however. Still, the forcefulness of the Junta's reaction to peaceful public protest means that they've probably succeeded in crushing this revolt and holding onto power -- unless the Burmese people are braver and more tenacious than most.

The last few years have made me wary of positive thoughts about the public's ability to wrest freedom from repressors without the force of the U.S. military behind their efforts. When we are not there, as in Lebanon, the despots' grip is tenacious, and the Daily Mail story makes it clear that that's the case in Burma:

Reports from exiles along the frontier confirmed that hundreds of monks had simply "disappeared" as 20,000 troops swarmed around Rangoon yesterday to prevent further demonstrations by religious groups and civilians.

Word reaching dissidents hiding out on the border suggested that as well as executions, some 2,000 monks are being held in the notorious Insein Prison or in university rooms which have been turned into cells.

There were reports that many were savagely beaten at a sports ground on the outskirts of Rangoon, where they were heard crying for help.

Others who had failed to escape disguised as civilians were locked in their bloodstained temples.

There, troops abandoned religious beliefs, propped their rifles against statues of Buddha and began cooking meals on stoves set up in shrines.

Let's hear it for the peaceful force of secularism!

Meanwhile, the UN's envoy has been shuttling around the country, talking, and proving just how cheap talk is.

Update: Satellite imagery shows just how devastating the reaction to the revolution has been.

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