Preventing a Massacre and Bringing Democracy to Burma: the Time is Now

Preventing a Massacre and Bringing Democracy to Burma: the Time is Now

When I heard the news that protesting Buddhist monks in Burma had managed to reach the home of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week, a wave of cold dread washed over me. My mind traveled back to the time a few years ago when I tried to reach Suu Kyi's home on University Avenue in Rangoon (now named Yangon by the brutal military rulers of Burma, itself renamed Myanmar by the same illegitimate government). My thoughts then moved further back in time, to 1988, when street protests led by the astonishing Suu Kyi ended in tragedy. By some accounts, some 4,000 demonstrators died as security forces massacred them on orders from Burma's generals.

Today, as the long-suffering Burmese again try their non-violent approach to end 45 years of military rule, there is a very real possibility that the effort will once again end with a massacre by generals determined to hold on to power. With tens of thousands now joining the monks in calling for and end to despotism, the international community must take action immediately to prevent another tragedy -- and to help the chances of success by those who would bring democracy and freedom to their land. To do this, pressure must be applied firmly on the few spots that make any difference to Burma's rulers.

Unconfirmed reports by activists say the military is ordering some soldiers to dress as monks in order to infiltrate the protests and turn them violent, providing an excuse for the crackdown. The technique has been used before with dreadful results.

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