Friday, June 5, 2009

Burmese Dictatorship-Part II

Invoke an External and Internal Threat
When Burmese Army took control over the absolute power in 1988, they have to come up with the reason to tell people that they are protecting from external and internal threats for a certain period of time. But after having the taste of being in power that approves they can do anything they want in the country, they just prolong the same reason for more than 20 years and still holding the power. It is the way of what Burmese military dictators make outsiders believe that they are protecting from external and internal threats.
It has been more than 20 years that they are in power and they are still saying that there are threats out there. What kind of threats are they talking about? After conflict between Buddhist monks and military junta during the peaceful marching of Burmese Buddhist monks in 2007, Singapore's foreign minister, George Yeo, warned that without the military, Burma could dissolve into civil war. Is he saying or defending the political power, as military fellowship, in which Singapore could also dissolve into chaos without military? I personally don’t believe that our Burmese people have the motives or capabilities to participate into civil war. Burma has about 50 millions populations and the event of 2007 peaceful marching of Burmese Buddhist monks at isolated region of Yangon couldn’t significantly triggered into civil war.

I was happened to speak with one of the Burmese diplomats in New York one year ago after Nagis cyclone wipe through out the delta region of Burma in 2008. I asked “Why don’t you corporate with international rescue team and let them enter into the country to save the lives of people as much as we can?” We both knew that U.S and French navy ships are stationing near to Burmese sea territory and ready to enter into the Burma to provide the rescue team. He said that military management is concerned about those Navy ships loaded with the technologies and weapons that can possible control the whole country within a few days. Ahh…. that is one of the external threats they are talking about. It was a threat to their military seats. His answer was stunned and upset me so much. We were talking about saving thousand of lives while the whole world is watching us.
By making the reason and invoking such external and internal threats, Burmese military dictators manipulate and convince the people mindsets that they have extraordinary powers to protect the country.

Establish Secret Prisons
I don’t have valid statistics for the total number of prisons in Burma, I wish I could, but what I do know is that, from the very beginning of military government comes into power, hundred of thousands of people have been imprisoned. My friends, their family members, opposition leaders, outspeak clergy, union leaders, well-known performers, publishers, and journalists whoever against to the military management has been imprisoned for a long time by any given irrational judgment. Some of them have already died in prison under the treatment of torture, prolonged shackling, lack of proper medical care, and insufficient food supply. A lot of university students from 1988 movement had vanished from the face of earth forever while they are in prison.

Every single Burmese citizen is learning the news, under the fear of torture, everyday that the sheer numbers of political prisoner are quickly increasing time to time and military government is keep on establishing more prisons through out the country in order to detain more political prisoners. Those are the secret prisons where the rule of law does not run and hide the prisoners from legal system.

Develop a Paramilitary Force
Burmese dictators might have done their homework properly from the lessons of Mussolini, Hitler and Chinese Communist Part to intimate and crack down the opposition parties by using street thugs.

In 2003 while the most outstanding prominent leader of National League for Democracy party, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also a Nobel Prize winner, was on her trip to Depayin village with other party members, they are attacked by a group called Swan-Are-Shin with about 2000 people who have been given special training to commit such a murderous crime. Dictatorships always exercise using street thugs to do their dirty work.
Swan-Are-Shin, a special group is controlled by military government, consists of street thugs and social pariahs, but later it was transformed into special organization bringing more ordinary citizens by force or by giving special authorities to interfere social welfares. As the number of Swan-Are-Shin members are growing and spreading into every quarter of the residential area, they gain more controls to influence the citizens and become flexible enough to transform into political party anytime.

Surveil Ordinary Citizens
Government prohibits the freedom of travel inside the country, like in North Korea. Every family household has to report to the local registration office with certain amount of registration fees when they have overnight visitors. The number of family members for each household is recorded and watched by the members of Swan-Are-Shin.

I was visiting in Yangon five years ago and taking my refuge at my friend’s house for one night after travelling a long journey from my home tome. We were woken up in the middle of the night with the sound of continuous banging on the door which could possibly break the door. My friend opened the door to learn that there were a group of five people standing in front of the door. All of them were nothing educated but just some local street thugs and also members of Swan-Are-Shin. They threatened my friend that he had unreported overnight visitor and it was just enough to send both of us into jail by violation of the security concern for the government. We were just ordinary citizens who never committed any type of crimes before, but now they were telling us that having unreported visitor was a crime. That was the kind of freedom that we were loosing in Burma. Those street thugs do nothing in day time accept hanging around at the corner of the streets and watching people going in and out of the local territories. If you are a member of opposition political party, you will be watched more closely until they find you a reason enough to send you into jail.

Infiltrate Citizens' Groups
“Who knows who is what” was a question among our friends when we were in university class rooms, hostels and even Buddhist monasteries. It is also a kind of questions what make ordinary citizens to fear the most. It takes freedom away from their daily lives. They would not dare speaking out loud about politics in public. What if there are espionages in your school, your college, your university, your neighbors, and even among Buddhist monks to whom we always pay respect according to Buddhism teachings. People instantly become to believe that you and your family will get into trouble if you criticize military leaders. They are watching us from everywhere. Who knows when they will knock your door in the middle of the night and take you away from your family and then you will never see your family again.

Ba Kaung

Burmese Dictatorship-Part I

This thought has been loaded onto my mind for a period of decade since I was a university student in Burma. It is like a recurring process going on and off, and sometime it is spinning my mind until I get stuck and exhausted into the questions that have been asked by many people. What kind of military dictatorship describes Burma and how are they ruling the country? How does Burmese culture blend together into the military mindsets and evolve into corruption? What is the future of Burma? So many questions have been answered and so many voices have been heard, but nothing vividly comes up with the solutions that could possible drive into the concrete construction of democratic road map. Perhaps, we haven’t paid attention enough to the ongoing phenomenon and practices of military framework. We are still living in the debate of ideology but occasional uprisings with sacrifices. In fact, we have a tendency that we are trying to win over one’s idea when it comes to political debate by different parties and then ended at into separations.

During 1996, I started exploring into the reality of puppet politic and social affairs behind the curtain of military show in Burma as an independence university student after having the first experience of 1988 uprising for demanding democracy in my hometown. It was also the time that I was building mature awareness upon government welfares and intellectual decline during the era of military ruling party in Burma. A lot of event happened while I was living in university hostel as a distance student and persuading my normal university education in Yangon. After 1996 student revolution when government can not compromise with the peaceful demands from university students, universities were shut down through out the whole country and all the students were forced out of hostels while we were hunger of knowledge and university education. Every university students understand that there are so much of corruptions in every level of Burmese education system and most of them must have gone through giving bribe to their school teachers in order to pass their exams. Hence, I have to be really careful choosing the right words to write in my blog because we, Burmese people, are quite sensitive when it gets to cultural perspectives. Some people may not like to tell the fact that school teachers are taking bribe because any form of teacher are considered one of the most respectful figures, according to Buddhism teachings, in Burmese culture. Some people still do not accept the matter that our society is declining in term of poverty, health, education, morale and morality while government slogans and statistics are trying to covering up the truth matters. It is a natural consciousness of human beings that we tend to defense for what we have grown up for so long.

Therefore, one has to understand deep level of culture perspectives to understand how we think and how we are striving to the present situation in Burma for a long time. Regardless of what political system is driving to the future path of Burma, the simplest question we are constantly asking ourselves is that “Is military supporting party is the best solution to rule the country while basic human rights are being suppressed?” When I was in Singapore, I was surprised to learn that the country is growing so quickly and competing with China and India economically. Singapore has military dictatorship which allows only one ruling party. Believe me- the election exercise in Singapore is truly unbalance and always favored and guaranteed to get winning votes only for the current ruling party which is tightly bound with military framework. Even freedom of speech and freedom of right in Singapore are strictly restricted, the principles of basic human needs are still provided.

When you learn closely all the dictators from the period of Mussolini's March on Rome or a dramatic massacre like Hitler's Night of the Long Knives and then to the recent era of Burmese military regime’s systematic cracked down over 1988 Protest and Chinese Communist Party’s cracked down over Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. There are ten steps, according to Naomi Wolf's The End of America, that all dictators take when imposing their control over freedom of basic human rights and influences from democratic ideology. How do Burmese military dictators exercise their military framework in order to secure their seats in power? Does the world truly understand the reason why Burmese military dictators are able to grip to the political power for a long time even though imposing of international sanctions has been made, United Nation has attempted dialogs with military junta several times for political reconciliation, and also people lives have been sacrificed sadly during the events of protest? But nothing seems to be working.

Naomi Wolf's The End of America pointed out the following 10 steps that all the dictators take in order to bring down an open society.
1. Invoke an External and Internal Threat
2. Establish Secret Prisons
3. Develop a Paramilitary Force
4. Surveil Ordinary Citizens
5. Infiltrate Citizens' Groups
6. Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens
7. Target Key Individuals
8. Restrict the Press
9. Cast Criticism as "Espionage" and Dissent as "Treason"
10. Subvert the Rule of Law
I am just filling the facts from an ordinary Burmese citizen point of view based on my experiences.

Ba Kaung