World Citizen: Countdown to a Showdown in Burma

World Citizen: Countdown to a Showdown in Burma

With little more than 50 days left until elections on Nov. 7, tensions are rising noticeably in Burma -- the country renamed Myanmar by its military rulers. The junta that keeps the country in its steely grip is trying to make sure the election goes off exactly as planned -- which is to say, without triggering a new revolt, let alone a full-fledged revolution, and without producing an electoral outcome that would embarrass the regime or weaken its hold on power.

The regime is so nervous that it recently ordered the temporary suspension of the magazine Modern Times as punishment for changing the headline on a weather forecast without obtaining prior approval from the censors. Referring to the arrival of heavy rain, the unauthorized headline read, "Will it come in September?" The twitchy officers at the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, the government's official censoring authority, worried that instead of an innocent reference to climate, the wording might be a coded message presaging a new September revolt, one resembling the monks' uprising of September 2007 known as the Saffron Revolution.

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta led by Gen. Than Shwe is officially known, fears that its opponents may be planning a showdown. In that extraordinarily controlled society, innocent-sounding messages in the mass media have a history of being used to send signals among large numbers of government opponents. Government watchdogs are also honing their skills at intercepting the new electronic messages favored by a younger generation of activists

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