Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Keep an Eye on that Pagoda in Burma

In a previous post today I mentioned the great pagoda of Rangoon (Yangon) in connection with the dedication of the world's largest dome which is under construction near Bombay (Mumbai). Nicholas Farrelly at New Mandala reports that the Yangon pagoda has become the site of a pro-democracy prayer vigil directed against the brutal Burmese junta:
As Yangon’s most famous landmark, and the nation’s best-known religious site, it has always been an obvious choice for important prayer vigils. During political turbulence in 1936, 1946 and 1988, it was also the site of landmark political protests.
There is now sporadic reporting that protests against the military regime - which, over the past three weeks, have developed in to a petition campaign - have moved forward. The International Herald Tribune and the Bangkok Post both provide more context on the small prayer vigil that has been held at the Shwedagon. A nation-wide week of prayer and reflection has been called by pro-democracy groups. It may soon spread beyond the capital.
Speaking of Myanmar, I just came across a video I shot on my trip to the Thai-Burma border town of Mei Sai. The video clip illustrates the mode by which many Burmese men make the daily internatioal commute: two men are shown swimming home to Myanmar (This post provides more background on the Mei Sai border situation). The yellow building in the background (towards the end of the clip) is a casino built for Thai tourists -- an example of the kind of investment Thai businesses have made in Burma over the years that put wads of cash into the pockets of Burma's ruthless military junta.

In other Myanmar news, AFP reported recently on the plight of the Karen minority peoples of Myanmar:
Another 82,000 people were forced to flee their homes in eastern Myanmar this year amid fresh fighting between rebel forces and the military regime, according to a survey released yesterday.

The latest displacements mean a total of some 500,000 people have fled their homes and been unable to return as of November 2006, according to the Thai Burma Border Consortium, a non-government organisation. The most significant concentration of internally displaced people was in northern Karen state and eastern Pegu division, where people were fleeing military offensives, the annual survey said.

These conflicts were reported to have killed at least 39 civilians and displaced more than 27,000 others in these areas during the past year.

“What we are seeing is a continuation of this ongoing displacement of these ethnic people,” the survey said.
Jotman recently spoke with a freedom fighter who was well acquainted with thoe plight of the Karen people. Click here to view a June 2006 report by the BBC about Myanmar army atrocities and the Karen resistance. Watch that video, you will understand why Emma took up arms against the Burmese army.

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