domingo, septiembre 30, 2007
El Enviado Especial de la ONU se reúne con Aung San Suu Kyi
Tras el encuentro, Ibrahim Gambari ha vuelto a Napydaw | Pequeños grupos protagonizan nuevas protestas
Rangún. (EP/AP).- El enviado especial de la ONU para Birmania (Myanmar), Ibrahim Gambari, se reunió hoy con la líder del movimiento democrático birmano, Aung San Suu Kyi, en Rangún y después regresó a la capital, Napydaw, para volver a hablar con la Junta Militar del país.
Fuentes diplomáticas dicen que Gambari ha vuelto a Napydaw, de donde salió esta mañana, para hablar con el "hombre fuerte" del régimen militar, el general Than Shwe.
Según fuentes de la ONU, Gambari se entrevistó hoy con el primer ministro interino, el general Thein Shein, y con los titulares de Cultura, el comandante general Khin Aung Myint, y de Información, el general de brigada Kyaw Hsan, además de con altos funcionarios de Asuntos Exteriores, pero no con el canciller.
El portavoz de la Liga Nacional por la Democracia (LND), Nyan Win, dijo que, como en ocasiones anteriores, habrá que esperar a que Gambari salga del país para que pueda contar sus conversaciones en Birmania y si su objetivo principal, el cese de la represión de las manifestaciones antigubernamentales, se ha conseguido, según radio Mizzima.
El enviado especial de las Naciones Unidas, que encabeza una misión de dos personas, llegó el sábado a Rangún y, después de que le informasen de la situación, viajó directamente a Napydaw, la nueva capital del país estrenada hace dos años.
La última vez que Gambari visitó el país fue en noviembre de 2006 y se reunió con la Junta Militar y con Suu Kyi sin conseguir ningún avance aparente en la reconciliación nacional, la democratización, la liberación de la líder del movimiento birmana, bajo arresto domiciliario desde 2003, o en la excarcelación del millar de presos políticos que encierran las cárceles birmanas.
Las movilizaciones populares en Birmania comenzaron el 19 de agosto pasado en protesta por las subidas de los precios de los combustibles.
Los monjes budistas se pusieron al frente de las manifestaciones el 17 de septiembre y comenzaron a encabezar a diario marchas pacíficas que llegaron a congregar a más de 150.000 personas tan sólo en Rangún, el día 25, la misma jornada en que el Gobierno, prohibió las reuniones públicas e impuso el toque de queda.
Desde el miércoles pasado, cuando empezó la dura represión y los arrestos, han muerto al menos 16 personas y más de 1.200 han sido detenidas.
Entre las víctimas mortales hay un número no determinado de bonzos y dos extranjeros, uno de ellos un reportero gráfico japonés.
Birmania está gobernada por los militares desde hace 45 años y no celebra elecciones parlamentarias desde 1990, cuando el partido oficial perdió estrepitosamente ante la LND, unos comicios cuyos resultados desacataron los generales.
Nuevas protestas esta mañana
Por lo que a disturbios se refiere, la noche en Rangún ha sido la más calmada de esta semana, dado que la Junta Militar ha redoblado la seguridad en todas las calles y ha incrementado los bloqueos en la Avenida de la Universidad que lleva a la residencia de la activista detenida, con la colocación de alambradas y protecciones de madera en las calles adyacentes.
No obstante, pequeños grupos de personas se manifestaron esta mañana en las calles de Rangún y Mandalay, las dos ciudades más importantes de Birmania (Myanmar), para intentar organizar una nueva jornada de protestas contra la Junta Militar.
La brutal represión de las fuerzas de seguridad contra las protestas pacíficas iniciadas por los monjes budistas que ha causado al menos 16 muertos, unos 200 heridos y más de 1.200 detenciones.
Los monasterios budistas de Rangún están cercados para impedir que los monjes salgan a las calles a encabezar las protestas y hay una fuerte presencia de soldados y agentes antidisturbios en las pagodas de Shwedagon y Sule, en el casco viejo de la ciudad, los lugares preferidos por los manifestantes. Unos 20.000 soldados han entrado en la ciudad entre anoche y esta madrugada para reforzar la seguridad.
En las dos últimas jornadas, la Junta Militar respondió con rapidez y dureza a las manifestaciones e impidió que prosperasen desde el comienzo.
Al menos 16 personas han muerto en Rangún, entre ellas dos extranjeros y varios monjes, desde que el Gobierno prohibió las reuniones públicas y decretó el toque de queda en esta ciudad y en Mandalay, el martes pasado.
En Mandalay, a unos 600 kilómetros al norte de Rangún, un grupo de civiles con el retrato de Buda marchaban por la ciudad, donde los cuerpos de seguridad tienen establecidos cercos en los monasterios y controles en las calles.
El movimiento de manifestantes en Rangún se produce tras la llegada a la urbe del enviado especial del secretario general de la ONU para Birmania, Ibrahim Gambari, quien, según fuentes diplomáticas, se reunió hoy con la líder del movimiento democrático birmano y Premio Nobel de la Paz, Aung San Suu Kyi.
On the brink
Sep 27th 2007 | BANGKOK AND YANGON
From The Economist print edition
How Myanmar's people rose up against its regime—and the regime rose up against its people
Get article background
THERE are reckoned to be 400,000 monks in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), about the same as the number of soldiers under the ruling junta's command. The soldiers have the guns. The monks have the public's support and, judging from the past fortnight's protests, the courage and determination to defy the regime. But Myanmar's tragic recent history suggests that when an immovable junta meets unstoppable protests, much blood is spilled. In the last pro-democracy protests on this scale, in 1988, it took several rounds of massacres before the demonstrations finally subsided, leaving the regime as strong as ever. By September 27th, with a crackdown under way, and the first deaths from clashes with security forces, it seemed hard to imagine that things would be very different this time.
One genuine difference is that, in the age of the internet and digital cameras, images of the spectacular protests in Yangon, the main city, have spread at lightning speed across Myanmar itself, encouraging people in other towns to stage demonstrations of their own; and around the world, bringing the crisis to the attention of leaders as they gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. The remarkable images from Myanmar have meant that, for a while at least, a country that has been brutalised and pauperised by a callous and incompetent regime for 45 years has the attention it deserves.
The latest round of protests began last month, after the government suddenly imposed drastic fuel-price rises. At first, the demonstrations, organised by veterans of the students' movement that led the 1988 protests, were fairly small. The regime arrested many leaders and sent plain-clothed goons to beat up demonstrators. It looked as if the protests might fizzle until, earlier this month, soldiers fired over the heads of monks demonstrating in the central town of Pakkoku. Some reports said monks were also beaten and arrested.
In Buddhist tradition, monks are rather different from in the West: large numbers of young men don russet robes for just a few years. So they are more integrated into the wider society, and more influential.
The clergy demanded an apology, setting a deadline of September 17th. The next day, their demand having been ignored, they took to the streets. They also, in effect, excommunicated the military and their families by announcing they would refuse to accept alms from them—a serious matter in a devout country.
Setting out at 1pm each day from the golden Shwedagon pagoda—Myanmar's most sacred shrine—a seemingly endless line of shaven-headed monks, many barefoot, has passed through the streets of Yangon. At first the monks limited themselves to chanting prayers and discouraged the public from joining them. But on September 22nd a hitherto unknown group, the All Burma Monks' Alliance, called on people to “struggle peacefully against the evil military dictatorship”. After this, large numbers of ordinary Burmese joined in, many linking hands along the route of the monks' procession. The monks' chants became overtly political, including the cry, “democracy, democracy”.
At first, the regime dithered. It fired tear-gas canisters at one of the first monks' protests, in the western town of Sittwe. But for the next few days, its forces stayed out of sight. On September 22nd, to their astonishment, a group of monks and laymen was allowed to pray outside the normally heavily guarded home of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and icon of Myanmar's struggle for democracy. Though Miss Suu Kyi is under house arrest, she was able to walk to her gate and, in tears herself, greet the tearful protesters.
Miss Suu Kyi's public appearance—her first since she was detained four years ago—proved a boon to the demonstrators. On Monday (September 24th) the protest in Yangon was said to be 100,000-strong. Monks waved the red “fighting peacock” flag, the emblem of the students who led the 1988 protests.
That night the regime broke its silence at last. On state television and radio, it warned of unspecified action “according to the law” if protests continued. The next day the protesters defied the threat, staging a demonstration at least as big as Monday's. As on previous days, the young monks were marshalled along the route by older ones with megaphones, followed by a vast throng of ordinary Burmese, and the odd government spy.
Those taking part were enormously moved by the defiance they achieved, as if that were an end in itself. Yet no one The Economist spoke to believed the government would yield; they were marching less in hope than in anger and despair. “I don't think we can defeat the government; I can't imagine what will happen,” said one young woman, “But we hope. We hope for the success of our revolution.”
Soon after Tuesday's march ended, troops and riot police moved in to positions around Yangon. The junta hunkered down for talks in Naypyidaw. That is the remote new capital the paranoid regime has built itself in the centre of the country for obscure reasons (perhaps on the advice of its soothsayers, or in fear of an American invasion, or of just this sort of popular uprising). Britain's ambassador, Mark Canning, went there and met two deputy ministers. He said they were under the illusion that the protests had been stoked by “meddling” foreign powers. Miss Suu Kyi was reported to have been moved to the regime's dreaded Insein prison.
On Wednesday the authorities announced a two-month night-time curfew and troops surrounded monasteries in Yangon. But swarms of protesters again poured on to the streets, defying tear-gas, warning shots and baton charges. The first deaths, including of monks, were reported. On Thursday, troops burst into monasteries around the country to make arrests but, again, this did not stop monks and laymen from hitting the streets, where riot police shot at them.
In 1988, when protests also had an economic basis, monks took an active part. They did so again in 1990, after the regime called an election and ignored the result (a landslide victory for the NLD). But this time they are in the vanguard. Given the reverence they are accorded by the predominantly Buddhist public, they will be harder for the regime to dismiss as criminals and subversives.
It is unclear who is leading the monks' protest movement, says Aung Naing Oo, a political analyst and veteran of the 1988 student movement. But, he says, they seem well organised. Some of the clergy's top leaders on the State Sangha Council have been bought off by the regime. Others, though, seem sympathetic to their young disciples. At the very least, says Mr Oo, it can be assumed that the protesting monks have the blessing of the abbots in charge of the monasteries. The raids on the monasteries seem designed to smash this source of resistance.
The tatmadaw (armed forces) did not hesitate to arrest, beat and jail monks in 1988 and 1990. But this time, not only are the monks (and many Buddhist nuns too) leading the protests, but the numbers taking part are also far larger than before. Furthermore, the army has changed. In 1988 it was mostly professional and had recent experience of waging war against Myanmar's sizeable ethnic-minority militias. Since then its numbers have been greatly expanded through conscription, which means many of today's soldiers are ill-trained peasant boys, whose families will have suffered from the regime's colossal incompetence. Ironically, the army's success in forcing many of the armed ethnic insurgencies to accept ceasefires has left it with few soldiers with much real experience of fighting.
The regime may be trying to calibrate its response to the protests, using limited force at first to quell opponents. That said, it still has elite disciplined units which would be unlikely to flinch if ordered to open fire on unarmed monks and nuns.
If there are any cracks in the junta's unity, nobody outside knows about them. General Than Shwe, the 74-year-old paramount leader, is rumoured to be gravely ill but it is assumed that, when he goes, his replacement will be just as thuggish. Taking account both of the expanded army and of the sizeable ethnic militias, Myanmar is one of the world's most militarised countries, notes Martin Smith, a writer on the place. The junta's leaders, pointing to the country's chaotic period of parliamentary democracy between independence in 1948 and the military takeover in 1962, sincerely believe the army is the only institution capable of holding Myanmar together. They are determined to cling to power whatever the cost.
It is just possible, however, that the regime may match violence with concessions. Earlier this month, it wrapped up, after 14 years, a national convention to draft the guidelines for a new and supposedly democratic constitution. In fact, the new charter would leave the army in charge and political rights severely curtailed. But its precise wording has not yet been decided and the next steps towards implementing it are uncertain. This leaves scope for promises of progress, in the hope that this will weaken the protests.
A bloody dawn?
Few demonstrators would trust such promises. But, combined with a stranglehold on the monasteries, and other repressive measures aimed at whittling down the numbers of protesters, they might be enough to show, once again, that resistance is futile. Back in 1988, at the peak of the protests, even as soldiers were mowing down the crowds, many Burmese felt sure the rotten regime was ready to collapse under the unstoppable force of “people power”, as the Marcos regime in the Philippines had two years earlier.
Even if the regime does crumble and the junta stuffs its bags with gemstones and heads for exile, Myanmar's troubles would still be daunting. Many of the ethnic minorities continue to distrust the majority “Burmans”, even including the democrats. And the NLD has been gutted by years of oppression. Miss Suu Kyi, inspiring figure though she is, is an untested leader who has perforce been woefully out of touch with events.
As in 1988 and 1990 the Burmese people have shown they want to choose their own leaders. In the past they did not fully reckon on the ruthlessness of the people they were up against. One day, as with all tyrannies, Myanmar's will fall. But much blood may flow before that day dawns.