Case re­port: the Septem­ber 2007 Up­ris­ing in Burma

The Global Digest (English) - - Contents - By John S. Thang

In­tro­duc­tion

Burma is a coun­try rich in en­ergy resources – in­clud­ing gas, oil and hy­dro­elec­tric power. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est in­for­ma­tion, the gas in Shwe field in the Bay of Ben­gal could bring in US $2 bil­lion an­nu­ally for at least the next 25 years. The A-1 and A-3 blocks of the Shwe field, about 60 Kms off the Arakan coast near the port of Sit­twe, hold as much as 7.7 tril­lion cu­bic feet (220 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters) of re­cov­er­able gas, source from South Korea’s Dae­woo In­ter­na­tional com­pany. Nat­u­ral gas re­serves are much higher at about 16 tril­lion cu­bic feet. The en­ergy min­istry’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral of plan­ning, Soe Myint, claimed dur­ing the Sin­ga­pore sem­i­nar that Burma has on­shore oil re­serves of more than 500 mil­lion bar­rels and an­other 100 mil­lion bar­rels un­der the sea (Wil­liam Boot).

How­ever, Burma’s junta gov­ern­ment has al­legedly mis­man­aged the coun­try’s nat­u­ral resources and the na­tion’s bud­get. One ex­am­ple of mis­use is the high cost of build­ing the junta’s new cap­i­tal city, Naypyi­daw, which will merely serve as a safe haven for the junta from which to pro­long their dic­ta­tor­ship. An ugly truth, the min­istry Soe Myint said, “Our dream is that Myan­mar will even­tu­ally be­come a ma­jor en­ergy sup­plier in this re­gion.” Of course, Burma has the po­ten­tial to be­come a ma­jor bio-fuel pro­ducer and ex­porter. And it is pos­si­bly amongst the world’s top 10 hold­ers of gas resources (Wil­liam Boot).

Para­dox­i­cally for a gas and oil rich coun­try like Burma the gas and oil prices rose sud­denly. This led to na­tion-wide pub­lic demon­stra­tions start­ing from Septem­ber 19, 2007. The rise in gas and oil prices was the re­sult of a de­lib­er­ate mis­man­age­ment of pub­lic pol­icy and an act clearly ig­no­rant of the peo­ple’s liveli­hood needs. There was shock amongst the pub­lic at fuel price in­creases be­tween 100 and 500 per­cent (Wil­liam Boot).

Septem­ber 2007 up­ris­ing

Orig­i­nal of Septem­ber up­ris­ing from Pakokku…. When the gov­ern­ment phys­i­cally beat protest­ing monks on 5 Septem­ber at Pakokku, where monas­tic op­po­si­tion be­gan, monas­tic protest spread through the coun­try. Ul­ti­mately,

monas­ter­ies at Man­dalay, the most im­por­tant monas­tic cen­ter in the coun­try, called on all monks to refuse do­na­tions from the fam­i­lies of the mil­i­tary elite, which ef­fec­tively meant that they could not earn merit in Bud­dhist be­lief. Soon, monks led peace­ful protest marches in the cap­i­tal (Michael W. Char­ney, p197). Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press and Cana­dian press, up-to 100,000 peo­ple joined marches and protested in Burma. A sim­i­lar re­port from ‘The Na­tion’ claimed that tens-of-thou­sands took to the streets in protest last week. The protests were spread out in var­i­ous parts of Rangoon. In such places as the Traders Ho­tel, the Thein Gyi and Anawratha and Sule Pagoda road there were about 10,000, 50,000 (news­deskspe­cial.co.uk) and 20,000 peo­ple re­spec­tively (english.dvb.no). Protests also oc­curred in Pin­nya Ramika tem­ple in Bo­tah­taung Town­ship amongst other places.

Out­side of Rangoon, in the other states of Ma­gawe and Bago, about 50 miles away from the cap­i­tal, nearly 1,000 monks marched peace­fully to the Sh­we­maw­daw pagoda (AP), and an ad­di­tional 200 monks protested in the Chauk Town­ship (mizzima.com). A protest took place in the small town of Bo­gale of Ay­er­wady divi­sion (Hla Hla Htay). It can be called as a na­tion­wide protest, when, even­tu­ally, eth­nics places were protested, that hun­dreds of Shan in board­ers are protested, also there are sig­nif­i­cantly protested in Rakhine state and the rest of eth­nic states as well (Aung Hla Tun).

The pro­test­ers are made up of stu­dents, reli­gious groups, ac­tivists and or­di­nary cit­i­zens, and are mostly led by the monks. This na­tion­wide protest is a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pres­sion of a pub­lic bit­ter at the coun­try’s long decades of mil­i­tary’s rule. It is dou­bly sig­nif­i­cant that the ma­jor­ity of pro­test­ers is of Burmese eth­nic­ity and is devo­tees of Bud­dhism which the junta also claims to ad­here to. In much of the wider world such peace­ful protest and open pub­lic out­cry is con­sid­ered a nat­u­ral part of civil move­ment and free­dom of ex­pres­sion in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. That the Septem­ber 2007 protests in­volved such large num­bers is a very se­ri­ous in­di­ca­tion of a pub­lic highly dis­sat­is­fied with mil­i­tary rule.

The Septem­ber 2007 up­ris­ing is also a na­tional is­sue be­cause the mil­i­tary junta’s al­leged ig­no­rance and lack of con­cern for the pub­lic, in­di­cated by caus­ing the de­lib­er­ate 500% in­crease in fuel prices in the midst of an eco­nomic cri­sis, is un­ac­cept­able for the so­ci­ety. It is clear that the pub­lic’s in­ter­ests were mis­man­aged by the gov­ern­ment as a re­sult of the wrong pol­icy be­ing im­ple­mented and as a re­sult an in­jus­tice was done to the peo­ple. Ad­di­tion­ally, the protests high­light the il­le­git­i­macy of the mil­i­tary rul­ing sys­tem in place since the con­fis­ca­tion of the peo­ple’s con­sti­tu­tion in 1962. In­deed the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment is one of un­demo­cratic rule not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple. More­over, poor han­dling of the econ­omy, a record of hu­man rights abuses and a his­tory of con­flict and war have dis­cred­ited the junta. It can be seen that the coun­try’s rul­ing sys­tem it­self is fail­ing, as made ap­par­ent by fail­ures in dif­fer­ent sec­tors such as ed­u­ca­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, amongst many more. It can be as­sumed that Burma’s sys­tem­atic fail­ure in th­ese ar­eas is the cause of man-made po­lit­i­cal dis­as­ters.

Hu­man Rights vi­o­la­tion

The crack down against the pro­test­ers by the Burmese mil­i­tary regime was an egre­gious vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights such as free­dom of move­ment and as­sem­bly, reli­gious free­dom, free­dom of ex­pres­sion, and pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion rights. It is also a crime against hu­man­ity be­ing both bar­baric and cruel.

Tor­ture, cruel and in­hu­mane treat­ment

Ac­cord­ing to Cana­dian Press, Po­lice in riot gear fired warn­ing shots to dis­perse pro­test­ers and more than 100 Bud­dhist monks, and they also chased some of the monks and about 200 of their sup­port­ers dur­ing the Septem­ber 2007 up­ris­ing. Fur­ther­more, 100 sol­diers armed with as­sault ri­fles were de­ployed around the Ma­hamuni Paya Pagoda, erect­ing a bar­ri­cade and barbed wire at the gate. The demon­stra­tors were beaten and dragged away into trucks and dozens were ar­rested (news­now.co.uk). On Mon­day, Septem­ber 24, the demon­stra­tors and Monks come out around Myay Nee Kone were beats, ar­rests and shoot­ing tear gas to dis­perse pro­test­ers in the south gate of Rangoon. Sol­diers along with USDA (now USDP) and Swan Arr Shin groups, the de facto mil­i­tary’s civic groups, beat and ar­rested monks, nuns and other peo­ple in­volved in the demon­stra­tion (news­now.co.uk).

Ac­cord­ing to the As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers (AAPP), at least 4,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing more than 1,000 monks, suf­fered from swollen heads and bruised bod­ies. 40 monks in the In­sein pri­son were beaten to death and sub­se­quently burned. Those monks who had failed to es­cape dis­guised as civil­ians were locked in their blood­stained tem­ples. 2,000 monks are be­ing held in the no­to­ri­ous In­sein Pri­son or in univer­sity rooms act­ing as cells (nor­way­post.no). In a di­rect at­tack on the pro­tes­tors the crowds at Sule Pagoda had a wa­ter canon turned on them (news­deskspe­cial.co.uk). The sol­diers and state­backed mili­tia beat up both monks and civil­ians even though their demon­stra­tion had been peace­ful (news.bbc.co.uk). The ac­tions of the mil­i­tary and Para-mil­i­tary groups in their crack­down against the demon­stra­tors are cru­elly un­rea­son­able acts and a kind of

tor­ture. The author­i­ties de­nied ad­e­quate food, wa­ter and san­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties to ar­rested pro­tes­tors and kept de­tainees in “dog cells” (Amnesty In­ter­na­tional).

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 5 of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights, ‘no one shall be sub­jected to tor­ture’, this in­cludes a limit, on hu­man rights grounds, of the amount of force that can be used to re­strain a per­son, the pe­riod of du­ra­tion the po­lice may de­tain sus­pects and the pun­ish­ment im­posed. Present time, the pro­scrip­tion of tor­ture be­comes part of cus­tom­ary in­ter­na­tional law(ROD MOR­GAN). Burma is in cri­sis, the num­ber of shoot­ings, beat­ings, burn­ings and other acts of op­pres­sion con­ducted by the author­i­ties is a kind of tor­ture, in­hu­mane and de­grad­ing to the Burmese peo­ple, and it is in di­rect vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law re­gard­ing hu­man rights. Th­ese al­leged di­rect at­tacks have left hun­dreds of peo­ple dead in­clud­ing for­eign­ers.

Death, ar­rest and dis­ap­pear­ance

Ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, more than 150 peo­ple have been de­tained dur­ing the protests, al­though Mil­i­tary State me­dia said that just 56 peo­ple had been ar­rested (Reuters). There are thou­sands more po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in de­ten­tion in­clud­ing at least 15 in­di­vid­u­als sen­tenced to pri­son terms of up to nine and a half years (Amnesty In­ter­na­tional); in the Mingladon mil­i­tary pri­son, there are 1,000 de­tainees, in­clud­ing 600 monks. But the Burmese gov­ern­ment claims there are only about 80 monks ar­rested (The As­so­ci­ated Press). There were marks­men atop mil­i­tary trucks and bridges us­ing live am­mu­ni­tion to tar­get in­di­vid­ual demon­stra­tors dur­ing the crack­down re­sult­ing in the death of at least two stu­dents and the se­ri­ous wound­ing of oth­ers (Amnesty In­ter­na­tional). Also, a Ja­panese pho­to­jour­nal­ist was killed (Agence France-Presse). It has to be said that many se­cret, mil­i­tary slaugh­ters re­main un­known.

More­over, the junta mili­tias widely used dis­ap­pear­ances as a tac­tic against the pro­test­ers to cut down the ris­ing death toll. Ac­cord­ing to an Amnesty re­port there are at least 72 in­di­vid­ual dis­ap­pear­ances since the crack­down (Amnesty In­ter­na­tional). For ex­am­ple, there six pro­test­ers were seen be­ing taken away by pro-junta sup­port­ers in cars (Aye Aye Win). Ac­cord­ing to a former in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, Hla Win said, hun­dreds of monks had sim­ply “dis­ap­peared” and thou­sands of pro­test­ers are dead and the bod­ies of hun­dreds of ex­e­cuted monks have been dumped in the jun­gle.

An­other ugly truth is that the author­i­ties pro­hib­ited and or­dered the clin­ics not to treat the vic­tims from the protest (Amnesty In­ter­na­tional). The author­i­ties were even tak­ing pro­test­ers’ fam­ily mem­bers and friends as “hostages”. This threat to pri­vate life is a kind of in­hu­mane treat­ment. In­stead of pro­tect­ing the peo­ple, the gov­ern­ment is act­ing as the per­pe­tra­tor of in­hu­mane at­tacks upon its own cit­i­zens.

Crime against hu­man­ity

The crack­down against the pro­test­ers dur­ing the Septem­ber 2007 up­ris­ing is a crime against hu­man­ity per­pe­trated by Burma’s mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment. Un­der the Rome Statute of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court Ar­ti­cle (7) Burma’s mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted a “crime against hu­man­ity,” by killing, mur­der­ing, burn­ing, ex­ter­mi­nat­ing, tor­tur­ing and per­form­ing var­i­ous other in­hu­mane acts of per­se­cu­tion

against the pro­tester group, in­clud­ing be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the un­ex­plained dis­ap­pear­ances of many pro­tes­tors.

In par­tic­u­lar, the Burma mil­i­tary’s di­rect at­tacks against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion which re­sulted in a mem­ber of the pub­lic’s death vi­o­lated Rome Statute Ar­ti­cle (7) para­graph 1[a], “mur­der.” In ad­di­tion the Burma author­i­ties failed to give ac­cess to food and medicine to pris­on­ers, an act cal­cu­lated to bring about the de­struc­tion of part of the pop­u­la­tion; this con­sti­tutes a kind of “ex­ter­mi­na­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Rome Statute Ar­ti­cle (7) para­graph 1[b]. The mil­i­tary’s ac­tions in at­tack­ing pro­tes­tors by shoot­ing, burn­ing or beat­ing can be con­sid­ered tor­ture, as any act in­tended to in­flict se­vere pain or suf­fer­ing, whether phys­i­cally or men­tally, is con­sid­ered “tor­ture,” ac­cord­ing to Rome Statute Ar­ti­cle (7) para­graph 1 [e]. And lastly, the forced ar­rests made by the mili­tia, the de­ten­tion and ab­duc­tion of pro­test­ers and the un­ex­plained acts of “dis­ap­pear­ance” are also in vi­o­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to Rome Statute Ar­ti­cle (7) para­graph 1[I]. All of th­ese vi­o­la­tions are part of a larger crime against hu­man­ity.

Who’s re­spon­si­ble for Septem­ber 2007 vi­o­la­tion?

In the Septem­ber up­ris­ing, the per­pe­tra­tors are the mil­i­tary junta, and its para-mili­tias and its de facto civics group USDA and Swan Arr Shin. And the vic­tims are the or­di­nary civil­ians, stu­dents, reli­gious lead­ers and monks who par­tic­i­pated in the demon­stra­tion. Also the protestor’s rel­a­tives should be in­cluded amongst the vic­tims be­cause the author­ity threat­ened them. In this case, the Burmese mil­i­tary junta Gov­ern­ment it­self has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to rec­tify the vi­o­la­tion. The gov­ern­ment is the sole holder of power and only it has the ca­pac­ity to stop the vi­o­lent at­tacks, hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and crimes against hu­man­ity such as those which took place dur­ing the Septem­ber 2007 up­ris­ing.

One of the worst tragedies is that Burma’s gov­ern­ment pre­vents in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the scale of the Septem­ber mas­sacre in the rest of the coun­try. It is clear that the Burmese mil­i­tary are di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for killing the pro­test­ers. Since the be­gin­ning of the con­flict sev­eral decades ago, the army or para­mil­i­tary forces have pa­trolled in eth­nic re­gions and been re­spon­si­ble for many hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions that have forced many peo­ple to leave their homes. They are liv­ing a sub-hu­man life(Bangkok Post - Nov 11, 2007).

Con­se­quences of vi­o­la­tion

There are many con­se­quences re­sult­ing from the crack­down against the peace­ful pro­test­ers in Burma; a large num­ber of in­no­cent peo­ple have been killed, there have been ar­bi­trary de­ten­tions, hostages have been taken, beat­ings and tor­ture in­flicted on those in cus­tody and en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances. In ad­di­tion, there were deaths in de­ten­tion due to se­vere beat­ings and other forms of tor­ture. Th­ese are cruel and in­hu­mane acts. Fur­ther­more many peo­ple have risked their life as dis­placed refugees in the jun­gle and in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

Dis­placed and refugee

There are al­ready at least half a mil­lion in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDP) in Burma and around 95,000 oth­ers forced to hide out in jun­gle and refugee camps in bor­der ar­eas. Ev­ery day there are Burmese peo­ple whose lives are in risk and who have to search for a safe place. So they are as dis­placed peo­ple and refugees. In the Septem­ber 2007 crack­down against peace­ful pro­test­ers, many more peo­ple had to leave their homes. Some of them man­age to reach refugee camps in bor­der ar­eas in Thai­land and other coun­tries. The dis­placed pro­tes­tors in­cluded many monks, stu­dents, politi­cians, and even ac­tors and some mil­i­tary of­fi­cers left their home and be­gan seek­ing for asy­lum(Rolleiv Sol­holm).

It is cer­tain that the mil­i­tary junta’s op­pres­sion is noth­ing more than a fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion which af­fects all peo­ple, re­gard­less of wealth or sta­tus, in­clud­ing the fa­mous movie star, Ko Kyaw Thu. In this var­i­ous de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of hu­man rights and hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in Burma made the peo­ple have no way to ap­proach for their safety, but to seek asy­lum in ex­ile.

Chal­lenge/rec­om­men­da­tion

Since Burma is a mem­ber of United Na­tions, there should be an im­me­di­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the hu­man rights vi­o­lated ar­eas. And it is nec­es­sary that hu­man rights teams are able to ac­cess all the in­ci­dent ar­eas. The author­i­ties should al­low them to un­der­take their in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­hin­dered and co­op­er­ate with UN, in­ter­na­tional and re­gional hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions in or­der to en­sure the fu­ture pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights. How­ever the Burma gov­ern­ment is very poor co­op­er­a­tion with hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tions in the past.

All the dif­fer­ent sec­tors in Burma are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, this in­cludes the de­struc­tion of so­cial and liv­ing stan­dards. If the gov­ern­ment is re­ally con­cerned for the na­tion, it is also need to solve out eco­nomic cri­sis for the long-term. At the same time, it is clear there is a need for a sys­tem of democ­racy, a full civil­ian rul­ing sys­tem. And then, Burma’s gov­ern­ment could stop mis­man­ag­ing the pub­lic’s bud­get through such ac­tions as un­nec­es­sary arms build­ing and in­creas­ing mil­i­tary size.It is cer­tain that all of th­ese prob­lems are due to the ab­sence of a demo­cratic gov­ern­ing sys­tem

in Burma. As the protests were con­ducted peace­fully by the demon­stra­tors, in­stead of di­rect at­tack by armed force, Burma’s gov­ern­ment should have opened a di­a­logue and dealt ap­pro­pri­ately with the demon­stra­tors in a demo­cratic way in ac­cor­dance with the stand point of in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights. More­over, the nec­es­sary of po­lit­i­cal will is re­quired to change from the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship rul­ing to the demo­cratic sys­tem. Free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion and as­sem­bly, me­dia free­dom is im­por­tant is­sues in Burma. Ac­cord­ing to Ge­of­frey Nyarota, Lau­re­ate of the 2002 UNESCO World Press Free­dom Prize, free me­dia in any gen­uinely demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment can be a cat­a­lyst for po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic change (UN). Of course, it is nec­es­sary for the Burmese peo­ple to think of their own ap­pro­pri­ate rul­ing sys­tem and gov­ern­ing form. The fail­ure of hu­man rights in Burma is purely due to a need for a rul­ing sys­tem and struc­tural ad­just­ment. Fed­eral democ­racy may be able to in­cor­po­rate Burma’s mul­ti­cul­tural, multi-reli­gious and multi-eth­nic pop­u­la­tion in a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem which will fos­ter last­ing peace. As of now, we are in need of both the re­gional and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity sup­port. Lastly, as a mem­ber of the UN, Burma should im­ple­ment hu­man rights as per the in­ter­na­tional norm. It should be taken as an obli­ga­tion of be­ing a UN mem­ber.

Con­clu­sion

Af­ter a crit­i­cal study of the Septem­ber 2007 up­ris­ing case, it is found that the Burmese mil­i­tary junta was nei­ther pa­tri­otic nor the na­tions guardian. Para­dox­i­cally oil and gas rich Burma coun­try turned into very high oil prices, which sub­se­quently lead to pub­lic demon­stra­tion, and which mil­i­tary author­ity re­sponds by bru­tal at­tacked and com­mit­ted crime against hu­man­ity and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Surely, th­ese resources will not go to­wards bring­ing the Burmese peo­ple pros­per­ity and will not ful­fill the needs of the peo­ple, rather they will ben­e­fit the mil­i­tary junta only.

Ac­tiv­its protest in-front of Myan­mar’s Em­bassy in Seoul

Mem­bers of All Eth­nics Democ­racy and Hu­man Rights Net­work protest on the an­nual event of “Septem­ber Up­ris­ing” day

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