Myanmar case Essay

The “Saffron Revolution[1],” as it has been called by a number of journalists, began on August 15, 2007 in response to the government decision to remove fuel subsidies that were causing the hyperinflation of gasoline prices.  It has been cited by many that this was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” as a wave of protests took the streets to protest the high controversial and unannounced decision by the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar (Human Rights Watch 2007).

Many of the political activists at this time were students and opposition members.  They were swiftly dealt with by the Junta.  It has even been rumored that a number of the dozen protesters who have been detained were tortured (Mathieson 2007).  Despite the action of the government on this matter, however, the situation became critical when on September 18, thousands of Buddhist Monks rallied.  Though this led to the crackdown on September 26, it was monumental enough to capture the world’s attention.

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The initial demonstrations that took place were quickly and harshly dealt with by the government.  Arrests were numerous and thirteen of the more prominent and outspoken activists such as Min Ko Niang, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Zeya, Ko Jimmy, Ko Pyone Cho and Ko Mya Aye were held in government custody (Human Rights Watch 2007).  While it was reported in one of the country’s newspapers that these people were arrested for “undermining the peace and security of the state and severely causing damaging impact on the National Convention,” the rest of the world was well aware that a different matter was brewing (Human Rights Watch 2007).

This led to the public announcement by the United States on the 22nd of August that publicly condemned the human rights violations that were happening (Human Rights Watch 2007).  The State Department remarked that “The United States calls for the immediate release of these activists and for an end of the regime’s blatant attempt to intimidate and silence those who are engaged in peaceful promotion of democracy and human rights in Burma…We call on the regime to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the leaders of Burma’s democracy movement and ethnic minority groups and to make tangible steps toward a transition to civilian democratic rule.”  This was the first public reprimand that the United States had issued with regard to the arrests that had taken place since August 15 (Human Rights Watch 2007).

The pivotal event which led to the involvement of more of the monks happened on September 5, 2007 when three (3) monks were insured due to the intervention by military personnel on the peaceful demonstrations that were being held (Human Rights Watch 2007).  In response to this, many of the younger monks in Pakokku took several government officials as hostage.  They demanded that the military publicly apologize for the atrocities that it was committing.  The refusal of the military to comply with the demands was met with further opposition as more of the monks decided to take part in the protests.  This led to a massive withdrawal of religious services for many of the military offices (Human Rights Watch 2007).  More importantly, this act greatly influenced a majority of the population to finally take a stand due to the position of reverence that the monks enjoyed in Burmese society.

As compared to the French Revolution, which began with the alliance of the rising Bourgeoisie, aggrieved peasants, and urban wage-earners, the revolution in Myanmar can be said to be similar in that it was an uprising against an oppressive regime.  While the rest of the country remained hungry and poor, a certain select enjoyed extravagant lifestyles which the poor shouldered.  This is quite similar to the situation during the French Revolution where the aristocrats sustained their lifestyles by taxing the poor heavily.

The difference, however, lies in the form of control that each party had.  In the French Revolution, the party that was in control was the aristocracy.  In the Burmese Revolution, the party that is in control is the Military Junta.  This difference explains the different approach to the situation as well because the Military Junta that is backed by Iran and China will be more difficult to overthrow than the aristocracy that existed during the French Revolution.

References:

Human Rights Watch. (2007). Burma: Targeted Sanctions Needed on Petroleum Industry. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/16/burma17356.htm.

Human Rights Watch. (2007). Burma: Gem Trade Bolsters Military Regime, Fuels Atrocities. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/burma17316.htm.

Human Rights Watch. (2007). Burma: Fully Cooperate with UN Envoy. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/burma17225.htm.

Human Rights Watch. (2007). Burma: Attacks Displace Hundreds of Thousands.. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/burma17168.htm.

Human Rights Watch. (2007). Burma: Security Council Should Impose Arms Embargo. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/burma17066.htm.

Human Rights Watch. (2007). Burma: Foreign Investment Finances Regime. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/burma16995.htm.

Human Rights Watch. (2007). UN: Push Burma for Real Reform. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/burma17305.htm.

[1] The term “Saffron Revolution” is in reference to the participation of the Buddhist Monks in the protests.  The Saffron colored robes that these monks use is the reason for such a name.

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