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Free Burma — Why Now?
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Free Burma

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Today there is a call for bloggers to respond to the situation in Burma in an organized fashion and I believe that pressure should be kept up on the junta. I doubt that the actions of organizations like Amnesty International will have any immediate effect, but it will serve to remind them that they are being watched.


1 Steve Bates { 10.04.07 at 7:55 am }

Thanks for joining in, Bryan. I plan a Burma post sometime today as well.

“I doubt that the actions of organizations like Amnesty International will have any immediate effect, but it will serve to remind them that they are being watched.” – Bryan

Amnesty is in it for the long haul if necessary. They always have been; that’s one of my favorite things about that org. They regularly sustain campaigns for years when more immediate pressures do not effect a change. One can legitimately argue whether the kind of pressure Amnesty applies is effective against brutally murderous regimes like that of Burma, compared with other kinds of pressure. But Amnesty members have kept up the pressure on behalf of Aung San Suu Kee since long before the broader blogosphere joined the struggle.

In matters of human rights, especially political oppression, there are avenues for multiple kinds of activism. Amnesty pursues a slow, steady approach that may seem ineffective when the horrifying mass murder of Buddhist monks confronts us in the news of the day. But if I recall correctly, Amnesty reckons that since it was founded in the Forties, it has freed or saved the lives of something like 40,000 political prisoners. That’s no bad thing.

Nobody expects to fix this in a day. Gandhi reminded us that satyagraha works only against governments capable of being shamed before the world, and that those who practice nonviolent resistance (like these monks) must expect to suffer violence in response. Various versions of his famous quote appear on the web; here’s one. “First they ignore us. Then they laugh at us. Then they fight us. Then we win.” We’re in the horrifying third stage of this progression. Amnesty has been there from the beginning, and will be there until we win.

2 Bryan { 10.04.07 at 10:30 am }

To be clear on my point, I don’t think there is any way of effecting immediate change. You have to apply constant pressure over the long haul to resolve the problems. It is highly unlikely that Aung San Suu Kee would still be alive if it weren’t for the constant pressure and reminders that people outside are watching.

3 Steve Bates { 10.04.07 at 11:23 am }

Precisely, Bryan. Someone must be there when the immediate crisis ceases to occupy the headlines and news broadcasts… and reports of the crisis are disappearing fast in favor of pop-culture news. I have great admiration for those who attempt direct in-country work, such as journalists documenting the atrocities (several have been murdered and the rest are now banned, as I just noticed), and of course the monks themselves, who by all recent reports are dying and being imprisoned in far greater numbers than initially reported. But this is a problem of four decades’ duration to date, and someone has to pursue the long term remedy and redress. As I noted, there’s plenty to be done, whatever time perspective one prefers.

Two corrections to my earlier comment: Amnesty International was founded in 1961, and the most common spelling of the name these days is Aung San Suu Kyi, rather than Kee. You’d think I’d know from handwriting those letters, but my memory is not what it once was.

I’m working on a post right now. It is hard to know what to say, isn’t it. But we have to say something, even if only to leave markers of these atrocities, published in as many places as possible.

4 Bryan { 10.04.07 at 12:04 pm }

There’s importance in spreading the word to as many different locations around the world as possible to emphasize the point that the world is indeed watching. This isn’t just a problem in Burma or Asia; it isn’t confined to world capitols; even minor potholes on the path well off the beaten track, like the Florida Panhandle, are aware of what is going on in Burma.