Monday, October 8, 2007


As the military junta in Burma puts the final nails in the pro-democracy movement an interesting question comes to mind. What would have been the world’s reaction, particularly in the West, if instead of monks, 6,000 priests were arrested? What would have been the reaction if 6,000 ministers were arrested? Or, what might have been the reaction if 6,000 Muslim clerics were arrested?

An October 7th AP report indicated that Burmese military authorities arrested 78 more democracy advocates on Sunday. Military authorities say that they have only arrested 1,000 and are only detaining 135 monks. Outside sources put the numbers at closer to 6,000. Adding insult to injury there are reports on the junta forcing civilians to march in support of the government claiming that dissidents are only a small minority that have been labeled by the Burmese government as terrorists.

While foreign governments have condemned the actions of the ruling junta in Burma, little has been done to offer support to the pro-democracy movement. The EU has widened some sanctions and the U.S. is pushing the UN for more sanctions but it is widely known that both China and Russia will veto such a move. It is easy to talk tough when you know there is little chance you will actually have to act.

Reports out of Burma today indicate that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will remain under house arrest which she has been for the 12 out of the last 18 years. The state controlled New Light of Myanmar claims that when a new state constitution is completed, all of the demands of the protesters will be within reach. An AAP story notes that work on reform has been “in Process” for the past 14 years and drafts of the new constitution leaves almost all authority in the hands of the commander-in-chief. There is very little light at the end of that tunnel.

Back to my opening question: would Western nations be so complacent and placid if the images come from Rangoon showed thousands of priests or ministers being beaten, shot at, hosed with water canons and arrested? If Catholic monasteries were emptied of their clergy and secreted off to some unknown and horrid prison, would there merely be talk of sanctions? What would Muslim nations do if they saw the U.S. arresting thousands of their clerics and closing mosques? Buddhist monks are probably the most peaceful group of people on the planet. They walk their talk. They seek not power and fight for the rights of all. Where are the churches when people cry out for freedom? What would happen if hundreds of thousands of priest, ministers and clerics defended upon the borders of Burma in support of their Buddhist brethren? What would happen if Burmese troops opened fire upon them? Interesting questions, but ones we will probably never have to answer!

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