Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Myanmar Ghost Dance

The ghost dance of the Myanmar Buddhists. And we know how ghost dances end.

And notice how young the monks are. Another children's crusade.

Buddhist monks march to downtown Yangon. Myanmar security forces fired tear gas and warning shots and beat protesters with batons, hoping to crush the mass rallies that have erupted nationwide against the military regime.

Undeterred despite the baton charge, the monks regrouped and 1,000 marched into downtown Yangon in defiance of the security forces, greeted with deafening cheers from thousands of bystanders as they approached the iconic Sule Pagoda.

Roars of approval erupted when storm clouds gathered overhead, dramatically blotting out the blazing sunshine. Many in this country, where superstitions are deeply held, took it to be a sign from the spirits.

But in a second onslaught, the security forces fired more warning shots and again unleashed tear gas to disperse the crowd, sending people swarming to seek shelter indoors.

'They even insult our religion and our monks,' a businessman aged in his 50s said as he ran from the tear gas alongside monks who held wet cloths to their face.

Elsewhere in Yangon, monks marching to the home of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi urged supporters to stand back and let them alone challenge the might of the hardline regime that has ruled Myanmar for more than four decades.

'We monks will do this, please don't join us,' they said.

'Don't do anything violent. We will send loving kindness to them,' they said of the military presence.

Myanmar protests

In this photo released by the National League for Democracy-Liberated Area, Buddhist monk walks past a motorcycle which was get burned in Yangon, Myanmar on Wednesday September 26,2007. Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas canisters while hauling militant Buddhist monks away in trucks Wednesday as they tried to stop anti-government demonstrations in defiance of a ban on assembly. (National League for Democracy-Liberated Area/AP Photo)

Few can fail to be intensely moved by the exhilarating images of the "crimson revolution" -
thousands of monks chanting "democracy, democracy" or reciting the Metta Sutta - the Buddha sermon on loving kindness, while civilian demonstrators, on a practical level, also call for the release of hundreds of political prisoners and a reduction in the price of fuel (raised 500% last month, the root cause of the protests).

The Asian Human Rights Commission has reported how the monks, in a pre-rally ceremony on Monday, have solemnly refused to accept donations from anyone junta-connected, people they have dubbed "pitiless soldier kings". This very serious act amounts to nothing less than a Buddhist form of excommunication.

Anti-riot troops in full battle gear now surround the six biggest monasteries in Yangon. Monks run the risk of at least being attacked with tear gas - some reports indicate this has already happened. Internet access (there's only one state-owned provider) has been cut off. Activists - and even some monks - have been arrested. During the 1988 protest movement - Myanmar's predecessor of China's Tiananmen - the regime is said to have killed more than 3,000 unarmed people.

This year China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the junta's human-rights record. It's virtually impossible that the collective leadership in Beijing will let one of its neighbors, a key pawn in the 21st-century energy wars, be swamped by non-violent Buddhists and pro-democracy students - as this would constitute a daring precedent for the aspirations of Tibetans, the Uighurs in Xinjiang and, most of all, Falungong militants all over China, the embryo of a true rainbow-revolution push defying the monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party.

So this seems to be the trillion-yuan question: Will Chinese President Hu Jintao sanction a Tiananmen remix - with Buddhist subtitles - less than one year before the Olympics that will signal to the whole world the renewed power and glory of the Middle Kingdom? If only the Buddha would contemplate direct intervention.

Of course as with all authoritarian regimes the first victim of a political crackdown are the clowns/jesters and poets. After all humour is subversive, and poetry is revolutionary.

Soldiers and police patrolled monasteries and other flashpoints of anti-government protests Wednesday after Myanmar's junta imposed a nighttime curfew and banned public gatherings to quell mounting demonstrations.

A comedian famed for his anti-government jibes became the first well-known activist rounded up after the curfew imposed Tuesday, following the largest street protests against the country's military rulers in nearly two decades.

Zargana, who uses only one name, was taken away from his home by authorities shortly after midnight. Zargana, along with actor Kyaw Thu and poet Aung Way, led a committee that provided food and other necessities to the Buddhist monks who have spearheaded the protests.

The fates of the actor and poet were not immediately known.


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1 comment:

kimberly said...

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