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Democracy in Burma

By on Jul 24, 2008 in Food For Thought, Stop The Press | 0 comments

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Quite recently the worlds gaze has shifted towards Burma, the land of the corrupt. It all started when the Burmese government decided to remove fuel subsidies causing prices of fuel to rise by as much as 100%. Now, this is a country where majority of the people are below the poverty line such an increase has effectively starved thousands as the food prices increased with the fuel prices, for how can the goods transported in to the market without fuel? Now this was the spark that ignited the already critical situation. The people in Burma mostly live in fear they stay silent because they have to stay silent they have no choice. They have been oppressed by the regime which takes no responsibility towards it’s own people but rather it is intent on embezzling as much as it can.

I still remember my last visit to Yangon, I was flying alone and I was really afraid about going through customs, what if they took offense from the books I was carrying? To my surprise customs was for me almost non-existent, for I grinned through it and I suppose many grease through it, I could see signs of corruption everywhere be it the guard in the corner to the topmost the custom official, show them a dollar and they would be at your beck and call.

My uncle used to work there as there in a hotel in Yangon, they used to live in the hotel (it had a 5-star rating), so I used to visit them, I had started to find the company of my cousin enjoyable despite our occasional alright perpetual differences. Now the First Day I arrived I was told “no discussions about democracy in public or human rights”. Ah well I thought that was quite bearable but as I walked the streets I was left aghast at the state of the people everything, there was no voice to their miseries. One could feel while walking the streets the state of poverty the masses lived in, in a country where inflation is so rampant that the kyat fluctuates a 1000 to a dollar the subsidy cut was an absolutely suicidal move by the regime.

Even worse is the brain in the drain phenomenon. I remember quite vividly the conversations I used to have with pianist who used to play in the lobby of the hotel; he majored in civil engineering. He told me that it was virtually impossible for him to find a job under the current regime and hence he was forced to scrape a living by playing the piano. I was rattled to my core, here was an undoubtedly qualified engineer who would be snapped up in seconds in a liberal market place but the fellow was starving and barely scraping through! I was reminded of the saying that one can judge a country by its taxi drivers. He told me that change was inevitable something would happen sooner or later the regime would be overthrown it’s just a matter of time.

It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this place was a ticking time bomb, they just lacked organization but once they were united the junta would have a tough time of putting them down but the question was how? The mass media was state controlled, freedom of speech was non existent there was no independent framework for mass mobilization, the existing one was already beaten down and the choking hold of the dictatorship prevented any new ones from rising publicly but I was wrong, there did exist one way of mass mobilization in this superstitious country, the monks, they are the moral authority in the country. Living only on the alms they get from the people the monks of Burma are highly revered and for the public, seeking their blessing is an issue as serious as life and death.

These moral authorities have taken upon themselves to speak out against the regime and have told the people to revolt. Now, imagine the consequences of this, this one act transformed a protest of a few dozen people into thousands, their voice in the carefully crafted governmental subterfuge penetrated into the public consciousness. Amazing isn’t it? How the people became ready to give up their lives for surety of the after life, the power of religion should never be underestimated. Even more unique is the fact that the internet has played a crucial role in this struggle for the people, if those pictures hadn’t come out do you think that we would have even known about the protest thousands would have been silenced and killed and nobody would be any wiser.

However due to the shifting of the worlds gaze to Burma and the fact that there was a revulsion felt uniformly throughout the globe against the actions of the regime something phenomenal has taken place it is the beginning of the end for the regime and it’s a dawn of a new age, the age of internet democracy so dictatorial regimes around the world beware someone, somewhere is watching…



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