The first-hand accounts describe a campaign hidden from view, but even more sinister and terrifying than the open crackdown in which the regime's soldiers turned their bullets and batons on unarmed demonstrators in the streets of Rangoon, killing at least 13. At least then, the world was watching.I have been writing about this hidden crackdown for over a week (start here). This is but the latest in a string reports out of Britain that many around the world are not being told about.
The hidden crackdown is as methodical as it is brutal. First the monks were targeted, then the thousands of ordinary Burmese who joined the demonstrations, those who even applauded or watched, or those merely suspected of anti-government sympathies.
"Some of the novice monks were under 10 years old, the youngest was just seven. They were stripped of their robes and given prison sarongs. Some were beaten, leaving open, untreated wounds, but no doctors came."
On his release, the monk spoke to a Western aid worker in Rangoon, who smuggled his testimony and those of other prisoners and witnesses out of Burma on a small memory stick.
Mr Kyaw told the aid worker: "The prisoners were let out of the trucks. Even though now they were safe, they were still so scared. They walked with their hands shielding their faces as if they were expecting blows. They were lined up in rows and sat down against the wall, still cowering. Their clothes were dirty, some stained with blood. Our friend had a clean T-shirt on. We were relieved because we thought this meant that he had not been beaten. We were wrong. He had been beaten on the head and the blood had soaked his shirt which he carried in a plastic bag."This strongly reinforces the point I made in the previous post:
For my reflections on this last quotation, see my next post (here).
The scale of the crackdown remains undocumented. The regime has banned journalists from entering Burma and has blocked Internet access and phone lines.
Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK says the number of dead is possibly in the hundreds. "The regime covers up its atrocities. We will never know the true numbers," he said.
At the weekend the government said it has released more than half of the 2,171 people arrested, but exile groups estimate the number of detentions between 6,000 and 10,000.
In Rangoon, people say they are more frightened now than when soldiers were shooting on the streets.
"When there were demonstrations and soldiers on the streets, the world was watching," said a professional woman who watched the marchers from her office.
"But now the soldiers only come at night. They take anyone they can identify from their videos. People who clapped, who offered water to the monks, who knelt and prayed as they passed. People who happened to turn and watch as they passed by and their faces were caught on film. It is now we are most fearful. It is now we need the world to help us."