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01 October 2007 @ 01:02 pm
Burma  
I want to try to summarize what is happening in Burma. Please jump in if you have any corrections or anything to add.

Burma has a military government.

The government recently raised prices on fuel.

Fuel prices have left the poor poorer, and now many people cannot afford to give donations to the Buddhist monks.

The Buddhist monks start refusing donations from military personnel. I'm unclear on the motivation here.

The Buddhist monks, worried about their source of income, began protests.

The protests grew. Some monks and protesters have been killed. (edited to add:) ~4,000 monks are being sent North to prison.

Does that sound about right? This is from several days of following the situation via BBC.

From what I understand of Buddhism, the cause of the protest confuses me. Wouldn't vows of poverty preclude protesting that people aren't giving money to them because of raised fuel prices? I don't get it.

But, any government that shoots peaceful protesters ... that is seriously not OK.

I keep feeling like I'm missing some really important detail about what's happening in Burma.
 
 
 
Prince of Happinesspoh on October 1st, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
You forgot to add that thousands of monks are being "sent away" to prisons up north:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7022437.stm

As for the donation scheme, well, monasteries don't operate for free. And Buddhists are people, not super-enlightened peaceful unicorns. An organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion is an organized religion...
bitterfun on October 1st, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
"organized religion is an organized religion"
Agreed. What many WEstern Buddhist don't understand is the various Buddhist denominations/sects are much like the Christian religions of the west. In many ways the Buddhist operate similiarly to Roman Catholics. It's culturely ingrained to donate for good karma. You negate some bad doings with money towards a good cause. The monk, just like priests, can do no wrong because they've dedicated their lives to spirituality.
Prince of Happinesspoh on October 1st, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Exactly, why follow through with strength of conviction when you can get what you need by operating on rote learned through cultural indoctrination?
Artemis Jones: Cedar Treerimrunner on October 1st, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)
You brought this up before I could. The temples I visited weren't in Burma, but those in Thailand are large-scale complexes that have to require a hell of a lot of upkeep, and I'd bet foreigner admission fees don't pay all of it. And monks still gotta eat, even if (in Thailand in any case) most of them aren't doing monkhood as a lifetime vocation.

And, yeah, an organized religion is an organized religion...
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Kburgunder on October 1st, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh my goodness, no.
That sounds like a big part of what I'm missing! :)
(Deleted comment)
intrepid_reason: Agnosticintrepid_reason on October 2nd, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)
Re: Oh my goodness, no.
"Then you have a very similar situation to what the Chinese are doing with Tibet." Which is, I believe, a major disuader to China putting much in the way of political pressure on Bhurma to back down.

The fact that the Military Dictatorship has not one, but 12 heads, and no one leader comes to mind, only a coterie of faceless generals. Said coterie, has imprisonned the democratically elected official; they have put down with force any subsequent call for an election, thereby removing the opportunity for free election, and a democratic nation. This seems to be the first issue to deal with.

IMNSHO China and the ASEAN nations are the only ones who can reasonably intervene here.
Darkmanedarkmane on October 1st, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Part of the logic of refusing donations from Military Personnel is the equivalent of a catholic priest refusing to hear confession from someone.
marc17marc17 on October 1st, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
Part of their religion is that you atone for your sings by giving donations to the monks. The monks, by refusing donations from the military and its members, is refusing to let them atone for their sins and thus making them suffer in their future lives.
Sarahsarmonster on October 1st, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
Here's some back story from one of my favorite Authors, Robert Young Pelton(maning it's a fairly easy read). He was there in 1996.
http://www.comebackalive.com/df/dplaces/myanmar/index.htm
Sarahsarmonster on October 1st, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
Sorry, 2000.

In short, the monks are just the tip of the iceberg.
marc17marc17 on October 1st, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
Let's not forget the killing of foreign journalists.

Kenji Nagai
Kriskfrye on October 1st, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC)
I know very little about Myanmar/Burma. But, from what I understand, the government spent a whole lot of money to give government officials raises and to move the capital. They paid for the deficit by printing more money and raising the price of fuel.

The monks protested by refusing religious services to military personnel including, I guess, allowing donataions from them. In a religious country like Burma, that's a Big Deal. The marches were further protests... I don't think they marched because they were protesting not getting money from the military personnel.

Last week, they raided all the monastaries at night and beat up the monks out of the public eye and cameras (not that they had that much trouble beating them up in front of cameras either). They cut internet services to the entire country to try to prevent news from getting out. And now thousands of the monks have been rounded up and will be sent to prisons.

This, of course, is all in China's backyard with China supporting the government in Burma.
nplusmnplusm on October 1st, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
In the end...

The culture in Burma is foreign. I imagine an journalist or outsider trying to encapsulate the goings on and such will miss the mark. Probably the full intent, motivations, and desires are so sufficiently different that somebody not enculturated in that area will not be able to understand. However, you can't write "I don't get it", so you reduce what they do to what you DO understand.

My guess is that there are nuances and details being dropped that would alter the whole viewpoint.

*slaps 2 cents onto the counter*