Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Extermination and account-keeping in Burma

The Sunday Times story about secret cremations in Burma (see the next post) also looks at the question of accounting. It's observations speak to a meticulous bureaucratic efficiency that evokes Nazi Germany:
It is now clear that the regime was techno-savvy, patient and thorough. It kept the Internet open long enough to allow its own cyber-operatives to down-load the images and recordings of street protests to identify the protesters. The Internet is now shut down.

Every Burmese street has a block registration with photographs of each resident on the wall of the local administration office,” said an international aid official, whose agency used the system to help track recipients of aid. Burmese have given accounts of soldiers and plain-clothes men arriving to make arrests with computer-generated photographs of their targets pulled off the Internet.
Actually, this brings to mind my journey into Northern Burma where I had an opportunity to observe the amount of red-tape getting on an intercity bus entails. In an account entitled "The Ghost on the Bus," I wrote:
Before we had boarded the bus, local passengers had submitted state-issued identity cards; station clerks then hand-printed passenger information onto a roster that got faxed somewhere. (In my case, before boarding, a messenger actually had to be dispatched to immigration to get travel documents copied and my passbook stamped). Before arriving in Keng Tong, the bus attendant handed the ID cards back to passengers. As he called out names, he made up jokes – taking care to mock especially funny-sounding names. Most passengers thought his routine hilarious, though a few victims did not look amused.
I can't imagine hearing so much laughter on the bus these days. At the time I was astounded by just how meticulous the officials from the bus company were about a country bus list. It's easy to imagine the same thoroughness now being applied to identifying protestors.

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