중앙데일리

The street protests are turning into a drive against the military government.

Oct 09,2007
Democracy supporters held rallies around the world on Saturday to condemn the military government of Burma after street demonstrations were brutally put down by the ruling junta.
Sparked by a sudden hike in fuel prices on Aug. 15, spontaneous public demonstrations raged for days on the streets of Burma. The protests spread to cities around the country and quickly grew into massive protests against the junta, the largest outpouring in 20 years.
International condemnation of the military government was swift and also grew at the United Nations last week, as the organization issued a warning that it would seek sanctions against Burma if it failed to respond to calls for moving toward democracy.
Security forces opened fire on protesters to crack down on the demonstrations, with the international media reporting scores of deaths. Reports also circulated of massive roundups of Buddhist monks who took a leading role in the street demonstrations. Burma is a deeply Buddhist nation, and the monks’ action was seen as signaling the junta’s loss of legitimacy to rule.
Although the military government’s policy on fuel prices initially prompted the protests, the people’s long-festering anger toward the military dictatorship appears to be growing and turning volatile.
Burma won its independence from colonial British rule in 1948. The country was under democratic rule until 1962, when General Ne Win grabbed power in a military coup. He ruled for nearly 26 years and violently suppressed anti-government protests to control the country.
In March 1988, students angered by the military regime’s economic mismanagement and political oppression clashed with the government, and mass public demonstrations spread throughout the country. Security forces killed hundreds of protesters during this uprising.
That September, General Saw Maung staged a military coup. Public protests continued for about two months after he took control of Burma. Saw Maung’s retaliation reportedly left some 3,000 pro-democracy demonstrators dead.
In June 1989, the military regime adopted a new name for the country, the Union of Myanmar. The United Nations recognizes the new state name, but many in the international community, including the United States, do not, in protest of the military junta.
In 1990, the military government held popular elections for the first time in nearly three decades. Aung San Suu Kyi, democracy activist and candidate of the National League for Democracy, was elected. Suu Kyi was set to become prime minister.
The military regime, however, nullified the election results and put Suu Kyi under house arrest. Further protests took place, resulting in the deaths of more protesters.
The military regime released Suu Kyi from house arrest in 1995 but warned that if she left the country, she would be barred from returning. She stayed. Her husband, Michael Aris, a British citizen, was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, but the junta denied him a visa to enter Burma. The democracy fighter has remained in her homeland, separated from her husband, who died in 1999.
The military government continues to extend her confinement and she has been prevented from meeting democracy activists. The international community has long urged the junta to release her and other political prisoners, but these demands continue to be ignored.
Following massive public protests since mid-August, tensions escalated rapidly in the country, and the United Nations sent a special envoy to Burma. UN emissary Ibrahim Gambari was able to meet with detained leader Suu Kyi and urged the military government to hold talks with her without any precondition, to overcome distrust.
The international community’s efforts to pressure the military government of Burma also increased recently. On Friday, a statement drafted by the United States, Britain and France was circulated to seek UN Security Council condemnation of the oppression in Burma. The non-binding statement requires approval by all 15 members of the security council.
Washington took a hardline stance toward the military regime in Burma, saying it would push for UN sanctions if the junta fails to respond to international concerns.
“If the Burmese government does not take appropriate steps, the United States is prepared to introduce a resolution in the Security Council imposing sanctions,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told the Security Council on Friday. “We must all be prepared to consider measures such as arms embargoes.”
China, a member of the security council, is opposed to pressuring Burma. “It is quite understandable for the outside world to express concern or expectation regarding the situation on the ground,” said China’s UN ambassador, Wang Guangya. “However, pressure would not serve any purpose and would only lead to confrontation or even the loss of dialogue between Myanmar and the international community.”
Global protests continue. Amnesty International’s Korea office held its rally on Sunday in downtown Seoul.
“The military regime’s brutal crackdown on the peace demonstrations in Burma must not be forgotten,” the Korean protesters said in a statement.
“The international community must continue its protests against the military regime.”


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Writer [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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