Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dying for a token

The dramatic events unfolding in distant and all-but-unknown Myanmar (often still referred to as "also know as Burma" as if that clarifies anything) are really quite bewildering.
Few places remain quite as foreign and mysterious in this ever-shrinking world as Myanmar, and one thing the protests and demonstrations of recent days have achieved is to bring to the world's attention one of the most brutal and repressive military regimes still in existence.
One has to assume that this was the main goal of the protests, and commend and respect the Buddhist monks for their courage and determination, especially given their certain knowledge of the kind of reprisals and retribution they would face. So far, the death toll is pegged at anywhere between 10 (government figure) and 200 (dissident groups' figure). Injuries are anyone's guess, and the the country's monasteries are now under a state of government/army seige.
But...the plight of Myanmar (also known as Burma) is now front page news the world over.
Just as bewildering, though, is the figure of Aung San Suu Kyi (also known as "The Lady"), in whose name most of these protests are ocurring.
Even less seems to be know about her than about the country in general. The only thing the Burmese seem to need to know is that she is the daughter of Myanmar's assassinated independence hero Aung San. It was mainly for this, and almost against her own will, that she has been thrust to the forefront of Myanmar's democracy struggle, and has spent 11 of the last 18 years under house arrest, almost totally cut off from the changing world around her.
She seems to bear her role with surprising equanimity but, if democracy were to be granted to Myanmar overnight, it is far from clear what her role might then be, and what, if any, her policies might be on anything. So really she has been reduced to the status of a figurehead, an icon, a token.
And for this token, pacifist monks are dying by the score.

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