Oct 1, 2007

Mass Murder in Myanmar?

Left: The body of an executed Buddhist monk floating in the Yangon River

A defecting intelligence officer who worked for Burma's ruling junta claims that thousands of Burmese protesters have been killed and that the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungles outside of Rangoon.

Hla Win, described as the chief of military intelligence in the northern Rangoon region, told Daily Mail reporters that he decided to defect when he was ordered to raid monasteries and participate in the mass arrests of hundreds of monks.

"Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about," Win said. "The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

The Union of Myanmar, which was known internally as Burma until the ruling junta ordered a name change in 1989, is perhaps one of the world's bloodiest dictatorships. Unfortunately, given the healthy profits derived from multinational corporations in Burma, special corporate interests have helped deflect international criticism of the presiding thug Than Shwe. Shwe holds a number of critical positions in Burma, including his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw. Imagine a Pentagon combined with a CIA that also acted as the corporate head of American defense and transportation industries, and you can get a sense of the power held by Than Shwe.

Or perhaps a better comparison might be with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, except that - unlike the Maoist Kim - Than Shwe has benn much quicker to figure out that multinational corporations can be the best friends a dictator ever had.

Despite grim pronouncements such as the comments by Swedish diplomat Liselotte Agerlid that the "Burma revolt is over," Burmese bloggers are still providing reports that the rebellion continues. Among the most dedicated - or "reckless," if you prefer - is a blogger named Niknayman, who is using the CBox platform to provide news from Burma that has not been filtered by the state propaganda agencies. Niknayman posted this chilling update a few hours ago:
1,974 monks and nuns who are currently being detained in InnSein GTI (General Institute of Technology) will now be transferred to Ka Baw Valley (which is a kind of prison) in Sagaing, in order to suppress their movement completely.
Overseeing the 12th-largest military in the world, Than Shwe knows that it would be the epitome of foolhardiness for Western nations to consider military intervention in Burma, and he appears to have sufficient armed forces and internal security personnel to effectively quell domestic dissent. Moreover, Than Shwe has maintained favorable relations with his two largest neighbors - China and India - so he has little to fear from regional powers, especially given the fact that Burma conducts billions of dollars in trade with these allies.

Thus, the political killing of Burmese dissidents can likely continue unabated for many years, and there really is little the West can do about the bloodshed beyond diplomatic handwringing, easily-evaded sanctions, or the awarding Nobel prizes to the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent much of the last 17 years under house arrest. After all - how much is the life of a Buddhist monk really worth in comparison with the corporate looting of the natural wealth of Burma?


Anonymous said...

God, what a bloody mess. And don't forget how little Bush & Co. have said about this.

Incognito said...

ANON: How about how little the world has said about this?

In case you are not aware, Mike, there is an international blogger's campaign in support of Burma. We are asking all bloggers to not blog tomorrow and instead. Info can be found on my blog
or free-burma.org
Thank you!