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Sep 27

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, September 27, 2007 7:42 AM 

 There is something ghastly-surreal about the spectacle of the violent governement assault on anti-junta protestors in Burma: about khaki-clad violence   vs. saffron-robed idealism. But the clash is also numbingly familiar. echoing too many other conflicts pitting peoples against brutish dictators, as in Tiananmen Square, 1989. Like the Chinese democracy activists then, the Burmese democracy protestors are looking for help from the outside world. Here's an eye-witness account from the British ambassador to Burma, as relayed by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday:
   
    "I came off the phone to our Ambassador in Burma about fifteen minutes ago and that was obviously before this report came through. He explained to me graphically an incredible scene outside the British Embassy of thousands of people led by monks but including students, monks in bare feet, many of those feet bleeding after nine days of walking, of marching. And as they marched past the British Embassy, they turned and applauded as they went past the Embassy and I think that was a way of saying that the voice of the international community continues to be sought and wanted by the people of Burma."
   
    Burma remains unfamiliar to most of us, but it is a regime that is totally totalitarian. Its duly elected pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under "house arrest" since 1989. Unauthorized possession of a fax machine, for example, carries a sentence of 15 years. Read Emma Larkin's excellent 2005 book, Finding George Orwell in Burma. It's not a conventional history of Burma, but it's offers searing insight into the fear and repression of its peoples. 

    What will the "international community" do--besides gathering for yet another pointless meeting of the ministers? No doubt they will call for more sanctions --although why sanctions on a country that is already dirt-poor are expected to do anything I don't know. People are already miserable, which is why they're rising up, right? Like the Chinese over the Tiananmen Square democracy protests nearly two decades ago, the Burmese brutes (Chinese clients, of course) will probably try to hang on long enough for Western interest to flag and protestors to disperse in fear.

    Where is our leverage? Some Burmese hands say it lies at least in part with China, proud hosts of the next Olympics (which we should be boycotting for many reasons, now including Burma), which certainly doesn't want bloody unrest in its neighboring dictatorship.

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