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As Long as We Remember...

September 1, 2009

Dissention and the Seeds of Rebellion

Tom McLaughlin

[Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of six reports on Tom McLaughlin’s recent trip to Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar, a nation controlled by its military.]


Preface: – The following opinions are from my travels in Burma, talking to dozens of people in quiet whispers, over quick cups of tea or in back alleys. I did not seek these people, they found me. They knew I was an American. I did not advertise it. I just told the truth when asked. I refuse to hide behind the flag of another country. I listened and offered the support of a nod or an arm squeeze. I will not name locations, professions or anything else that could give a hint of identification.


As of this writing, Aung San Suu Kyi remains in jail because some stupid demented American swam across the pond to her house to warn that she would be assassinated because of a dream. Obviously assuming her military guard wanted him there, she provided Asian hospitality to this deranged individual for two days. The generals, who controlled the government, then charged her with violating her house arrest. This convolution of logic enabled them to place her in prison, away from any perception that she was free.


Who are the generals and the ones serving in the military? They are the same ones that authorized and performed torture in Guantanamo. They are the same ones that cowardly burned a church in Alabama killing children. They are the same ones that shoved millions of Jews into gas chambers. They are the same ones who use twisted logic to perform murder, torture and other heinous acts.


Aung San Suu Kyi, beloved and revered by the people of Burma and a hero for standing up to the generals and the military will spend another 18 months in jail. “One tough lady” an individual called her. I did not hear one word against this worldwide hero who has set an example in the cause for the people.


Burma has only one Internet provider while in the states we have Yahoo, AOL, and many others. The generals allow only one provider and they have hired a private company, probably from China but possibly from North America to censor. For example, any web site that has the name Aung San Suu Kyi is blocked. My attempts to get my mail on AOL were also thwarted. With the lack of hand phones, the Internet cafes are a vital source of communication.


However, many brave people have obtained software to over ride this censorship. I was able to go anywhere on the Internet, the people proudly demonstrating they could circumvent the government. They were proud to do their part in silent protest. And they were proud to show me they would.


I have often said in the Orient to expect the unexpected and this is true about three men. Par Par Lay, Lu Maw and Lu Zaw. Located in what we would call a garage attached to a house in Mandalay, these gentlemen perform a virulent anti government campaign within their bizarre act. For some reason, these gentlemen can perform only in front of tourists with the blessing of the generals.


The tirade begins with accusations, probably true, about the generals stealing money from the people and the consequences; AIDS because of prostitution, lack of medicine, educational facilities and hunger. A disc broadcasts clips of statements by Hollywood stars that are supporting the people of Burma. The stage then abruptly jumps into a fashion show of Burmese costumes and then dancing by heavy, middle aged women pounding out steps obviously meant for lithe young women.


Par Par Lay and his brother spent years in forced labor and emerged as spokesmen to encourage tourists to visit Burma and to spread the word like I am doing here. They are under house arrest and claim grandma often chases away the secret police watching from across the street, who are obvious because of their hand phones.


Riding in a taxi from Rangoon to the airport, a new road bed was being constructed. Women in conical hats carried huge rocks, hot tar in buckets between poles, and smoothed out the road bed by hand. I then wondered: where were the young men? For a country supposedly with a high unemployment rate, why were the women doing this work?


I later learned there are one million more women than men in the country. For a society that favors the male child, the answer was obvious. They are imprisoned or have been murdered by the regime. No other answer is possible. University students and monks could make up part of that number, but only a small part. I didn’t see enough monks to make up the difference. I believe we do have a mass genocide on our hands. That would be the only thing that could account for this difference.


I believe, because of the genocide, there is disention within the military. And that’s all I am going to say about that.


My plane took off from Rangoon for Mandalay with thoughts of those women working on the road bed running through my head. We landed at the airport, the only, and I mean the only airplane on acres and acres of concrete. I surveyed the cement and agreed that only forced labor, slave labor if you will, could have constructed that airport. But then, where were the men who were used for the forced labor? Or did they use women also?


Traditionally, the students are a source of revolution anywhere in the world. The government has decentralized the university so there are many campuses throughout the country. There is no central gathering point, only a selection of much smaller schools where the secret police can be more efficient.


After the 2007 uprising when praying Monks were mowed down in the streets of Rangoon, they were also dispersed. Monasteries that formerly held hundreds now are homes to small children monks with a few caretakers.


With the fighting men either imprisoned or dead, the students dispersed, the Monks, because of their pacific beliefs and their scattering around the country, this leaves the women as the only core group left.


Therefore, many things must come together before a revolution can be successful. University students must be secretly organized. The political prisoners held in jails have to be liberated. Monks must be able to bandage and apply medicines. A liberation base outside the country to stockpile items needs to be secretly established.


All of these efforts have been thwarted by the military and outside help will not be forthcoming from any of Burma’s neighbors. Just this morning, the Indonesian government cancelled a gathering of Burmese in exile who were going to release some information.


The prospects for revolution are dim with the might of the generals, the octopus, in power.


…life is good for me, but not for the people of Burma.


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