Saturday, September 29, 2007

Burma at the crossroads

The two Burmese colleagues I have worked with in academe are both exiles. They have got their PhDs but can't return to their country. One studied at the Australian National University but before then he was a tutor in one of my tutorials when I was doing my own PhD. The other worked on his science PhD in UP and taught for a time at my department after graduation. When his some in his (including children I was told) were imprisoned by the despotic regime in Rangoon, he went home to pick up his kids but was eventually able to escape and live in Scotland since he had British citizenship. In an email from a Scottish university, he wrote that he did not decide to come back to democratic Philippines since according to him we are to "friendly" to the generals. To which I replied it isn't us but the current Malacanang tenant!

The other Burmese friend of mine is now in India where his family (related to Aung San Suu Kyi) has been in exile for 25 years, where he was born. His only visit to his country was when as a PhD candidate he sneaked across the border from Thailand and spent a few hours there.

Both exiles refuse to use the name "Myanmar" to describe their land.

That the generals will even imprison even family (that includes kids) to persecute opponents speaks volumes about the despotic regime in Burma. Now the writing is on the wall (or on the blog wall) for them.

Buddhists monks in their Saffron robes have taken to the streets to be joined by thousands of Burmese. The generals have ordered that protesters be shot and not a few have fallen. Buddhist monasteries have been raided by the military and yet the protests continue. At least one foreign journalist has been shot dead, a Japanese photojournalist. The whole affair has now invited international condemnation as it coincided with the UN's annual gabfest in New York.

In a desperate move that is bound to fail, the country has began to shut the internet. Burmese have found ways to go around this. If we may recall in the first coup d' etat of the internet age a few years back, the Fijiian generals tried to shut down the internet. But Fijiians just used their satellite access to the web.

The world now sees in real time what the generals are up to.

Any decent citizen of a democratic society has no choice but to strongly CONDEMN THE DESPOTIC REGIME in Burma and if necessary extend assistance especially to those who will be forced to go on exile.

The irony is that the whole event has barely attracted the attention of our politicians. To her credit, the President Gloriana has condemned the generals and called for a return to democracy (which is too weak. She should have called for the institution of democracy by all means necessary). ASEAN should have more guts and expel Myanmar! Our country has more of a moral obligation to condemn the Burmese regime more than any country in ASEAN. It has to take the lead.

Anyway the tinpot Marcosian generals in Burma are bound to pass into history soon. Their major mistake: it is impossible to limit liberty in the internet age and it is human nature is to resist an attempt to constrain freedom.

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