Thursday, September 27, 2007

Freedom for Burma

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, October 2004:
"The outlines of Burma's misery are clear, despite limited access to the country. They include the holding of political prisoners, arbitrary arrests, low spending on health and education, forced labour, exploitation of child soldiers, harassment of ethnic minorities and official connivance in opium trafficking."


Excerpts from "The Ghost Road", by Mark Jenkins, who writes about his experience in Burma, Outside magazine, October 2003:
"In these neighboring villages, under cover of darkness, I finally find people who will talk to me. They..are dying to speak to someone. A deluge of stories, always told behind closed doors, beside candles or oil lanterns that are frequently doused—and always in whispers. They are everywhere. A shopkeeper who says that everyone is an informer here: "Trishaw drivers, businesspeople, teachers," he says. "Even good people are informers. This is the only way to protect their families: to give up someone else. It is poison."

This shopkeeper takes me to see a former government official who was tasked with beating tribals used for road gangs in the Karen state, in far eastern Burma. "I was expected to hit them with a club," he says. "Not systematically, because then they could plan and train their minds to resist, but randomly. This works very well. It maintains the fear of the unknown. This is how to create terror in a human heart."

"The son of a father who was imprisoned for friendship: "The bravest of all, Aung San Suu Kyi, came here in 1988," he says. "My father knew her; they were schoolmates. Just friends. When she left, my father was taken away. He managed to get letters out to us. How they tortured him with electricity. How they used an iron bar rolled on his shins. How they used snakes with the women. Put snakes inside the women's bodies. He was released after five years, and then he died."


My thoughts tonight are with the Burmese people. Watching the evening news I am reminded of how easily our country could have gone down the same road as Myanmar. My hope is that we cherish and honor our current freedoms, and stand with those who still struggle for it in their own nations.

And, really. If you are now killing monks and unarmed civilians, ON TOP of raping your citizens, forcing your children to become soldiers, provide no health care for the people while your daughter gets heaps of diamonds for her obscenely lavish wedding -- break out that old adage: "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small."


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