Burma: The UN Might Just Be Useful

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Burma is eerily quiet.

Thursday’s protests were by far the most eventful yet— an estimated 70,000 people were on the streets demanding democracy. Soldiers fired tear gas and shots on crowds, the government says the death toll is ten; but some estimates put it as high as 200.

So what does the military do in an effort to contain further pro-democracy protests? It blocks the Internet. Since press freedom in Burma is fiercely curtailed, bloggers have played a critical role in showcasing the mayhem. The military government also launched raids on monasteries, beat and arrested at least 1,000 people, locked up tens of thousands of monks within the monasteries, and sealed off five “key” monasteries.

In spite of that, protests have continued- albeit their momentum slowed. Reports the Times, now that the monks have been locked up, the “demonstrations seemed to have lost their focus, and soldiers are quick to pounce on any groups that emerged onto the streets.”

Demonstrations have cropped up across Asia, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. ASEAN has issued a statement about their “revulsion” towards how “the demonstrations in Myanmar are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities.” India, which has armed the Burmese military regime, has generally remained silent. The UN sent UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who arrived Saturday and is due to meet the Burmese senior general on Tuesday. Dana Perino says that “The United States is pleased that U.N. Special Envoy Gambari was able to see Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Gambari remains in Burma in order to see the top junta leader, Than Shwe.”

At least the UN has some use for the U.S.

— Neha Inamdar

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