Associated press
Buddhist monks feast inside a monastery in Yangon City in Myanmar July 12, 2008. (AP)

New Wave of Dissent Comes to Myanmar

September 25, 2008 06:54 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Dissidents in the repressive regime are trying new tactics in the aftermath of the government’s crackdown on monks and teachers who participated in the “Saffron Revolution.”

Monks Getting Guns; Secret Schools

Burma’s younger generation of activists is doing everything from stockpiling weapons to recreating notorious prisons in a flutter of new tactics for dissent, reports The Christian Science Monitor in a three-part series about activism in Myanmar (also known as Burma).

The new methods are in response to the government’s crackdown on widespread protests last year by monks and teachers. Those protests were nicknamed the “Saffron Revolution” after the color of the monks’ robes.

“Last September the Army proved too powerful for us and defeated our nonviolent tactics,” a young monk named Ashin Zawta told the Monitor. “We need weapons. That is the only way we can bring down this regime.”

In addition, dissidents have set up an underground network of secret schools to help educate the next generation of activists.

For ordinary children with no political background, the schools, located everywhere from the Thailand–Myanmar border to scattered monasteries, “can open the door to a new world,” said teacher and underground opposition group member Htat Shwe, whose name has been changed for security reasons.

“In Burma, education means obeying teachers, not fostering students’ potential,” the Monitor quotes Shwe saying. He says that the teachers challenge the students to question what they are taught in traditional schools and put a focus on subjects such as political theory and human rights, in addition to math and English.
Supporters of democracy in Myanmar this week celebrated the new freedom of legendary democracy leader and journalist U Win Tin, who was released on Monday after spending 19 years in jail.

“I will keep fighting for the emergence of democracy in this country,” he said to reporters. Myanmar’s longest-serving political prisoner, the 79-year-old dissident was a founder and chief strategist of the opposition National League for Democracy and also a mentor to Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest for her role in the country’s pro-democracy movement.

The agency Transparency International recently reported that Myanmar ranked second to last in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, putting Myanmar, along with Iraq and Somalia, among the most corrupt nations in the world.

Background: The Saffron Revolution

Protests started last year over rising fuel prices and were led by the veterans of a student rebellion in 1988. It started with a few monks, who were joined by thousands more after the military fired shots over the peaceful protest. In reaction, the government seized satellite phones and computers and shut down internal access to the Internet.

Related Topic: Myanmar’s Cyclone Nargis


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