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September 2, 2009

The Revolution in Burma

Tom McLaughlin

[Editor’s Note: This is the six and final report 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 will not name locations, professions or anything else that could give a hint of identification.


The revolution will come, the question is when. Many believed there would be a problem after the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi on July 31 and August 11.


On that rainy July morning, I walked into the center of Rangoon and everything seemed normal, just like the day before and the day before that. The only minor difference I noted were the grouping of three men, dressed in short sleeve shirts and lon gyi (sarongs) on street corners. These could have had nothing to do with the trial, just a coincidence, something I had failed to notice before. They could also been members of the secret police. The usual troops with machine guns and rifles guarded the airline offices and a western hotel around the corner.


Talk about the upcoming elections promised by the generals sometime in 2010 and the hope of change, dominated most conversations. To force the current regime to come through with their promise and avoid bloodshed, many are corralling westerners, like myself, and informing them about Burma, both past and present. They are hopeful we will tell our leaders about Burma and they will take action.


The statements by foreign governments after the August 11 sentencing threatened more economic sanctions, one even ludicrously suggesting there be a boycott of rubies. But there is nothing left to sanction. And those in place, as noted earlier, are complete failures.


If a forced revolt does happen, it will be bloody with huge loss of life. A look at the map shows that smuggling guns and other arms to a rebel force in Burma will be very difficult. The basket case Afghanistan will be no help as they are involved in their own problems but it could be used as a staging area for western troops to move in after the revolt begins.


China remains a strong supporter of the current regime. Burma, a source for marriageable women, economic colonization and energy sources, will probably see a mass pouring of troops to protect their interests in Mandalay.


Another scenario will be uprising led by the women. They are the only group left to foment rebellion. University students and parts of the Army will join after watching the events unfold. The revolt will be very bloody with the remaining parts of the Army brutally murdering in an attempt to stamp out the rebels.


Thailand has strong energy ties with Burma while other Southeast Asian nations are watching the situation warily as they are dealing with their own human rights issues. The scary and undocumented ties with North Korea throw a wrench into any scenarios.


Should the revolt be successful, the same group with the mindset of the generals will attack the overseas Chinese in Mandalay. Relations with China have been cordial with the generals. They have allowed a migration and they have married locals and established large businesses but have omitted local Burmese from participating. The Burmese blame the influx on the generals and hence connect the Chinese to the regime. China could send in troops on the pretext to protect their citizens.


The major emphasis for the people was to let the world know what was happening and to force the generals to honor their promises of a free and open election. Obviously the world leaders have failed the people of Burma for the past 45 years. Nothing has worked.


As stated many times in my columns, in the Orient one must expect the unexpected. There could possibly be another scene, a combination of possibilities or another way that could slide down a moon beam is not even considered.


I am just an American who visited Burma, had a look around and listened. I came back firmly convinced that something must be done to help these people. The world governments have failed, the usual rhetoric has been broadcast after it was announce Suu Kyi was to serve another 18 months in jail.


Now it’s time for the people, you and me, to tell the Burmese government that we support Aung San Suu Kyi and free elections. We are also willing to help the Burmese in their upcoming bloody revolution to oust the generals.


First mail a plaster, band aid to you Americans, to the Embassy of Myanmar in your country. Let them know the people are standing behind the people of Burma.


Second, begin collecting bandages, medicines and other supplies. Find a place in your community to store them until they can be sent to a yet to be established central collecting area.


Third, when in Bangkok, visit Burma. Spread the money around to taxi’s, Monks, and anywhere else you may see a need.


I don’t know what else we can do except to let the generals know that when the revolution comes the people will be ready to help.





A monk was sitting on the floor over a small table that was at a right angle to the large Buddha. The warm eyes of peace and content gazed to the horizon. Fresh flowers were placed on the altar.


The Monk was gently fanning himself from the heat, elderly and patient. I sat down beside him and picked up another fan and waved it sending the warm air towards him.


Another Burmese came in and I asked him to tell the Monk this was for 2007. He translated. The monk looked at me and nodded. We sat together for about 15 minutes and then I left.


            …life is good!


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