Rome (AsiaNews) – Friends write to me from Burma: “Help us! It’s a question of life or death!”. One of them who is well informed writes to me from Yangon: “Economic sanctions against Burma mean nothing, because the regime can still crush the people whenever and however it wants. It has decimated the only force of opposition the Buddhist monks and it can import and export all that it needs from China: its capital is drawn above all from trade in opium, gas and petrol. It something is not done on an international level soon that can free us from this slavery then, within a few months everything will go back to the way it was before! For us, the slaves of the times, it seems that the only option is to boycott the Chinese Olympics. We believe that it is the only threat that can bring China and the Burmese regime to listen to the people and give us freedom which is our right!”.
Today, news from Myanmar reports that there is still a heavy military presence around the two famous pagodas of Yangon, Shwedagon and Sule. There is also a large number of troops deployed around the Kyaikkasan pagoda in Thingangyun, from which numerous monks were taken and some even killed: 15 trucks are close by the pagoda virtually closing it down, with only the entrance accessible.
A boycott of the 2008 Chinese Olympics has already been called for, but has yet to take off. In fact two months after the beginning of the revolt against the military-socialist dictatorship in Burma, the situation has precipitated and shows no signs of improving. The UN is blocked by China and Russia and the west’s interest in the fate of the Buddhist monks and the Burmese people seems to be petering out, while the military’s heavy handed repression has reached beyond the limits even of the despotic emperors of long ago (in 1878 twenty year old Thibaw had 86 relatives strangled: arrested in Mandalay by the British in 1886 and exiled to India) the British colonizers and the Japanese who invaded Burma in 1942-1945. Throughout its history, the sacred places of Buddhist worship had always been respected. Today there are reports of assaults on convents and pagodas, ancient Buddhas beheaded for their precious gems, monks slaughtered, thousands arrested: they can be found in remote regions (out of tourist’s sight) working side by side on chain gangs (as I personally witnessed a few years ago). This is the fate of the Buddhist monks. It is easy to imagine the fate then of the thousands of lay people who took to the streets in protest, most of them young people!
For us too in AsiaNews a boycott of the Olympics is the only proposal which can bring about a concrete result in freeing the Burmese population. Whether it is of any success is not important. For years now China has been investing billions and billions of dollars in preparing for the Games and its reputation is on the line. It aims to promote itself as a modern, wealthy, evolved, organised, trustworthy nation. The threat of people boycotting the historic event is worse for the Chinese authorities than any possible failure or bankruptcy. Within two to three months the people of Burma will once again be firmly locked under the iron grip of Chinese and Burmese weapons, who knows for how many decades more. And we will still be here consoling ourselves with torch-lit demonstrations attempting “dialogue” with the Burmese barons and their Chinese protectors. How can it be possible that China can continue to stamp on and oppress (or help to oppress) human rights in Tibet, Burma, Darfur and elsewhere and still be considered untouchable for economic reasons? How authentic is our protest and pacifist talk against human rights violations?