The Dangers of a Police State

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by Seacowboys, Sep 28, 2007.

  1. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    Many of you have heard my fears of the trend towards militarization of our police forces paving the path to a police state. WHat is happening in Burma right now, is a prime example of what not only can happen but eventually will happen right here at home. Please read this:
    Kenneth Denby in Rangoon

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    Pictures: death of a Japanese journalist
    Burma’s generals silenced the Buddhist monks yesterday morning.
    For a week and a half, the monks had been on the streets of Rangoon in their tens of thousands, and their angry calm gave courage to the people around them.
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    [​IMG] Q&A: Burma

    <!-- Display Teaser text -->What can the world do about the situation in Burma? And will it make any difference? Who, if anyone, can really have an influence on the reclusive regime?

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    • In pictures: Burma violence
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    <!-- END: Module - M63 - Article Related Attachements -->But overnight, they were beaten, shot and arrested, and locked in their monasteries. Handfuls of them emerged yesterday – two or three brave individuals, a dozen at most – but nothing to approach the mass marches of the previous nine days. Everyone felt their absence.
    You could see it in the faces of the civilian demonstrators who took to the streets anyway, in defiance of the official warnings.
    You could see it too in the swagger of the riot police, banging their batons menacingly on their shields as they advanced.
    The monks were moral shields; without them the marchers had lost a lucky charm. They felt less like crusaders for justice and more like what they resembled – scared, angry kids in T-shirts facing well-drilled troops with automatic weapons.
    They stood their ground as long as they dared, too long for some of them. At least nine people were killed, according to patchy reports, and eleven others injured. The dead included a Japanese photographer.
    So far, though, this does not yet appear to be a repeat of the massacres of 1988, when 3,000 were mown down on the streets. The junta is showing patience and restraint, it is plotting its moves step by step, and it is displaying a subtle and malignant cunning.
    In the Mwe Kya Kan pagoda in the South Okkala district of Rangoon, it began at 2am, but seven hours later the evidence was plain to see – a dozen thick patches of congealing blood and human tissue splashed about the yard. The windows of the monks’ dormitories were smashed jaggedly by the impact of rubber bullets – hard, round spheres fired from green cartridges that the monks had carefully gathered up and put on display.
    Inside everything had been smashed – the thin plywood walls, the monks’ plaster statues of the Buddha – and the thin mattresses were soaked with blood.
    “We had to flee for our lives into the neighbourhood,” said a small bespectacled young man named Ashin Thu, one of the few monks to have evaded arrest. “A family let me hide in one of their houses, I was so scared.”
    The bullets may have been rubber, but at close range they can still do great damage. Seventy monks were driven away bleeding in 24 military vehicles and, to judge from the pools of blood in the yard, several of them were gravely injured.
    Most outrageous of all, in the eyes of the survivors, was the theft that the soldiers had carried out. They took money from locked boxes and carried off a gold statue and a hoard of golden rings. And so it becomes clear why the Government has imposed an eight-hour overnight curfew. It was not to protect the city from “terrorists”, but to prevent its citizens bearing witness to its own crimes.
    Similar raids – with beatings, terror and arrests – were reported in at least three other monasteries. Several senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, were also rounded up overnight.
    At 9am yesterday I had an appointment to meet U Myint Thein, the gracious and gentlemanly spokesman of the NLD. But U Myint Thein was otherwise engaged – in the headquarters of the police special branch, who took him away from his home in the middle of the night.
    By the afternoon, there were troops stationed in monasteries all over the city. For Buddhists, there is an element of sacrilege in this, as well as simple bad manners. These were men of violence, fresh from acts of violence, who were imposing themselves on places dedicated to peace. At Moe Kaung Pagoda, the olive-uniformed troops wore red kerchiefs around their necks. It is the belief of many of the demonstrators that this is a sign that they are permitted to shoot to kill. But the killing was to take place elsewhere, on the road that leads south towards the Sule Pagoda, the second-most famous in Rangoon after the mighty golden Shwedagon. By noon, thousands of people had gathered at a crossroads which had been sealed off by soldiers, riot police and barbed wire barricades.
    Around 1pm the police began moving forward, and the soldiers followed. Warnings were issued through loud-speakers on the roofs of vans.
    Then, amid impenetrable confusion, shots were fired, as well as smoke grenades. It would be inconsistent with the behaviour of the security forces during the rest of the day if these had been live rounds, aimed to kill. But one man, apparently a photographer, was seen by witnesses to drop suddenly, as if shot. His limp body was lifted on to a military truck and carried away.
    The crowd scattered and ran to reform a few hundred yards up the road. Banging their shields, the riot police advanced again with the loud-speaker van behind them.
    The message was both crude and courteous. It included an honorific form of the Burmese word for “you”, and might be translated like this: “Good sirs, please leave the area or we will open fire in ten minutes time.”
    No one had difficulty believing this and with oaths and screams of rage (one man lifted up his traditional longyi skirt to present a full moon to the forces of the junta), the protesters moved back, and back, and back again.
    Late in the afternoon, shots were heard from the streets to the east of the pagoda. But by that stage none of the small corps of foreign diplomats, reporters and photographers following the demonstrations felt much like going out to have a look.
    There are so many heartbreaking things about what is going in Burma, but for a foreigner one of the hardest to bear is the optimism. There are few foreign journalists here, but people treat them as saviours, encouraging them to get the story and the pictures out, with a touching faith that it will make a difference.
    “Tell them to send foreign troops, UN troops,” said a young monk at the Mwe Kya Kan pagoda. “Please, fly them to our country to save our lives.”
    An American in Rangoon told me yesterday about an opinion poll carried out on Burmese attitudes to US foreign policy.
    “Like most people, they thought that it sucks,” he told me. “But not for the usual reason. Burmese wanted to know why George Bush hasn’t invaded their country yet.”
    A boy named Raphael came up to practise his English, as the crowd screamed at the soldiers, and asked for my address so that he could visit me one day. A very small and old but irrepressibly vigorous white-haired man took my hand and led me to safety when he thought that I was too close to the trouble. “I am a teacher,” he said proudly. “PhD!”
    Small, human encounters – and yet in these dark circumstances they become almost unbearably poignant. They are based on a very questionable assumption: that the people of Burma are going to be saved.
    I wish that I could have told the monk, and the boy and the old man, that I believed everything would be well and that soon they could expect the basic decency from their Government that so many of us take for granted. Nothing is settled, of course, and the future is impossible to read – but on the basis of what I saw yesterday the Burmese junta is winning.
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    For what it's worth, the Myanmar junta has been in power for a long time. Several coups have not improved the situation. The whole thing has served as an example of tyranny for about 20 years that I know about, and probably a whole lot longer. The population has zero arms, and until these picture cams became available on the black market, nothing of substance has made it across the borders in believable form. Note that last sentence, who would believe the esteemed few journalists that were, somehow, enabled to enter the country? Had to be subsidized by bribery and advised to whitewash what they saw. And the beat(ings) go one. I had an illegal immigrant Burmese surveyor working for me in Singapore; he was caught and sent back by the Singapore authorities. He's dead, very healthy when he went home.
  3. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    Oh my.
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    More on Burma's status in case you think we have it bad now. Really, rule by thuggery. Aung San Suu Kyi was, in essence, not allowed to leave the country to attend her husband's funeral when he died in (I think) England where he was being treated for cancer. (She chose not to go out of the country, even tho' the junta had allowed it, for fear of not being allowed back in. The junta realized that her leadership of the pro democracy movement would be lessened if she were out.) These thugs need to be re-educated as the Soviets put it back in the early days.

    A Look at <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Myanmar</st1:place></st1:country-region>'s Military Junta

    First among equals in the current regime is Senior Gen. Than Shwe. He is said to be superstitious and to consult with astrologers, but otherwise has a public image that is taciturn in the extreme. No. 2 is Deputy Senior Gen. Maung Aye, whose reputation is, if anything, more ruthless than Than Shwe's, probably because he has more field combat experience from fighting ethnic rebels. Soldiers in the 400,000-strong military live secluded from civilian life in isolated barracks; their families are provided with housing as well.
    The State Peace and Development Council, as the ruling junta is formally known, replaced another dictatorship in 1988 after suppressing a pro-democracy uprising. The previous regime, led by Ne Win, destroyed what had been one of Southeast Asia's most dynamic economies, restricting tourist visas to one week and refusing all foreign investment.
    Than Shwe's government has opened up the country to foreign investment. <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Myanmar</st1:place></st1:country-region> is rich in natural resources and has survived by cultivating investment in its potentially vast oil and gas reserves. Neighboring <st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region> and <st1:country-region w:st="on">India</st1:country-region> curry favor with the junta because of <st1:country-region w:st="on">Myanmar</st1:country-region>'s strategic location on the <st1:place w:st="on">Indian Ocean</st1:place> and its oil and natural gas resources. <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region> is the regime's main ally, supplying the most diplomatic muscle at international forums.
    In 1988, the army violently suppressed mass demonstrations against the military dictatorship, though some members of the air force changed sides and supported the protesters. <st1:street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Monk-led street</st1:address></st1:street> protests threatened the junta's power again after the government refused to accept the outcome of a 1990 vote, in which Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party won a landslide victory. The regime responded with several months of raids on hundreds of pagodas and the arrests of hundreds of monks.
  5. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    Where is all the moral out-rage? Where is Uncle Sam rushing into police readiness in the name of human rights? oh...I forgot ...they don't have any oil.
  6. ozarkgoatman

    ozarkgoatman Resident goat herder

    Actually they do have oil and NG but China has their eye on it. That might have already been given to China in some back door deal.

  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Yep, lots, and a significant mineral wealth as well. Relatively low grade oil, but recoverable according to some.
  8. Boromonkey

    Boromonkey Concerned primate

    Sounds like it's time for an air drop of several thousand rifles and a couple hundred thousand rounds of ammo to Myanmar. It would be interesting to see what would happen.
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