Burma: Saffron Flames Rage Against the Machine

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Burma (or “Myanmar,” as the military junta christened it) is in the throes of what some are calling the “Saffron Revolution.” For the past two days, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks, nuns, students, activists, and civilians have been staging the largest demonstrations since the 1988 uprising, when thousands of unarmed, pro-democracy demonstrators were killed by the security forces.

Initially, fuel price hikes sparked the protests but they seem to now reflect decades of pent up anti-government sentiments and demands for democratic reform have been ringing through Rangoon for the past two days. On Tuesday, the military enacted a day long curfew prohibiting public gatherings of more than five people. Soldiers used tear gas, batons, and automatic weapons to disperse protesters and so far, nine people have died.

Anger about the military’s treatment of monks has ignited even more protests. Soldiers launched several raids on Buddhist monasteries. At least 300 monks and other demonstrators have been hauled away in military vehicles.

China, Burma’s principal trading partner, notified everyone that it would halt any UN sanctions, which isn’t surprising. The US, for its part, tightened sanctions against Burma and has issued a joint statement with the European Union, stating that they are “deeply troubled” that the “security forces have fired on and attacked peaceful demonstrators and arrested many Buddhist monks and others.” They “condemn all violence against peaceful demonstrators and remind the country’s leaders of their personal responsibility for their actions.” The statement then urges China, India, ASEAN, and surrounding countries “to use their influence in support of the people of Burma/Myanmar.”

Too bad the US’ foreign policies in Asia are not consistent. Some military regimes get scolded while others, namely Pakistan’s, receive full US approval, weapons, and a blank check.

— Neha Inamdar

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