Monday, September 24, 2007

Myanmar's brave Buddhist clergy and personal thoughts on peaceful protest

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"

Edmund Burke

Hi Friends,

I am sure that few of the Buddhist monks participating in the protests against Myanmar’s military junta know who Burke is, much less heard of his famous “triumph of evil” quote.

It is fair to say that it probably matters little to them as they have already taken upon themselves the duty to save Myanmar by literally putting their own lives on the line. To them, enough is enough and the oil price hike was but the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

I had written previously about Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi here.

Peaceful protest justifiable?

For the detractors of peaceful protest -and Singapore has many, where do they stand?

Shall they still say that it is futile and counter-productive to protest? That the military junta should just be allowed to rule ad infinitum or until they see the folly of authoritarianism and give power voluntarily back to the people? "Wait Long" I hear some amongst us utter in Hokkien!

I suppose in a clearcut case like Myanmar, where the ruling elite do not have any intentions of having democratic institutions such as universal suffrage from free and fair elections, almost all of you (including so-called detractors) would say without any hesitation- "Go ahead and protest. We support your marches."

What about back home in sunny Singapore, where some of us seemingly live in a sort of blissful Utopia, oblivious to problems and issues facing other human beings within or without our national boundary? That it is unwise to allow peaceful protests?or That it is justifiable for any 5 people walking together for any cause to be hauled before our courts and be charged for being part of an “illegal assembly”? Just because most of us have 3 square meals daily, have we forfeited the right of free expressions?

So to protest in Myanmar is good, but to protest in Singapore plain silly?

Think about it! And while doing so do have a thought or say a prayer for the brave souls up north!

My Myanmar friends, live long and prosper! I support your just cause!

With sincerest wishes for a peaceful resolution in your troubled land,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Addendum: The SIIA (Singapore Institute of International Affairs) has a niece piece untitled "The Last Stretch for Myanmar?" here .

30,000 rally as Myanmar monks' protest gathers steam (AFP 24 Sept 2007)

Thousands of Buddhist monks marched in Yangon on Monday, piling the pressure on Myanmar's ruling military junta after a weekend that saw the biggest show of dissent in nearly two decades.

At least 30,000 people led by about 15,000 monks clad in orange and rust-red robes marched from the holy Shwedagon Pagoda and past the offices of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

As the monks walked by chanting prayers for peace, NLD officials came to the sidewalk, clasped their hands and bowed in respect to the clergy, and then joined the marchers.

Many of the marchers fixed onto their shirts small strips of rust-red cloth, taken from the robes of the Buddhist monks.

Shwedagon Pagoda has been the focal point of protests by the clergy that began nearly a week ago, which have swelled to include thousands of civilians.

"We are marching for the people," one monk said to the crowd, and urged supporters to remain peaceful and avoid chanting political slogans as they snaked through the nation's commercial hub.

On Sunday, about 20,000 people, half of them monks, thronged the rainswept Yangon streets chanting prayers and shouting slogans, while other rallies took place across the country.

Some 150 nuns joined the rallies for the first time.

They were the largest protests in Myanmar since a 1988 democracy uprising led by students, which was brutally put down by the military, killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of protesters.
Two of Myanmar's most famous actors, comedian Zaganar and heart-throb movie star Kyaw Thu, came to Shwedagon early Monday to bring food and water to the monks, witnesses said.
Both men had spoken on short-wave radio urging the public to support the protests.

Myanmar's junta have so far kept their distance. Any violence against the revered monks in this devoutly Buddhist nation would spark an outcry, analysts say, and the generals are likely keen to defuse the crisis peacefully.

"If the military kills a monk or a layman, then the demonstrations will quickly spread," said Aung Naing Oo, a Myanmar expert based in Thailand.

David Mathieson, Myanmar consultant with New York-based Human Rights Watch, told AFP that civilians joining the monks in the numbers seen Sunday marked a significant escalation in the protest movement.

"I'm heartened by the fact that there hasn't been a violent crackdown by the authorities, (but) this is still an incredibly tense time to see how they react," he said.

In a surprise move on Saturday, armed police allowed about 2,000 monks and civilians to pray outside the home of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The women known here simply as "The Lady" stepped outside the lakeside home where she has been under house arrest for more than a decade and greeted the monks and supporters.

"Walking down University Avenue and going to see Aung San Suu Kyi is something that people have been secretly dreaming of. And they did it, and the army let them, and that is what is really remarkable," Mathieson said.

But on Sunday, riot police blocked the road leading to the Nobel Peace Prize winner's house, and a smaller group of monks were forced to turn back.

Extra forces were again deployed around the home on Monday, witnesses said.
Anti-government protests began after a surprise rise in the price of fuel on August 15.

Initially, prominent democracy activists led the rallies, but the generals cracked down, arresting up to 150 people, human rights groups say, and now it is the monks who are spearheading the marches.

Smaller rallies have also been taking place in cities in central Myanmar, in a bold show of dissent in a nation that has been tightly controlled by the military for 45 years.

The United States and European nations are also preparing to round on Myanmar at the annual United Nations General Assembly this week, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice branding the military leadership "brutal."


James Chia said...

we are so divided and conquered. what to do? don't like the policies that the PAP dish out also no use!

Saltwetfish said...

One of the jarring issue is whether or not Monks/Nuns should participate in protests, peaceful or not and whether they should be involved in political movements (whether its good or not).

The main issue is whether such actions by our respectable Buddhists Sangha contrevene the rules of ethics in the Monasty codes.