Oct 8, 2007
On September 27, in Burma (or as it’s called, Myanmar), the generals in power moved to crush the protest movement that had been growing steadily over several weeks. The army opened fire on demonstrations and broke them up. Demonstrators were beaten, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, were arrested; many were killed. The government cut the country off from the rest of the world, breaking telephone and Internet connections.
This repression put an end to the protests that were triggered on August 15, after the military rulers raised prices sharply on petroleum products. They increased the price of gas by 66%, doubled the price of diesel fuel, and hiked butane by 535%. What followed were big increases in public transit fares and the cost of living. These price increases fell heavily on the population, the vast majority of whom live in dire poverty.
The military rulers tried to stop the demonstrations, at first unsuccessfully. The protests grew, moving from protests against price hikes to a call for democracy. Buddhist monks, who constitute a political and moral force, and who lead a privileged life compared to others in Burma, went into the streets in greater and greater numbers. This protest was a blow to a regime which had been supported by the monks.
The military, which took power in a 1962 coup, have imposed a ferocious dictatorship. The generals savagely repressed the official opposition, whose leaders until this day are imprisoned or under house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi, spokeswoman of the National League for Democracy, is a famous example. The generals have also repressed ethnic minorities, like the Karen and the Mon people. In 1988, a popular uprising against the high cost of living was put down with many thousands killed.
Today, the army has 400,000 men in a country of 42 million people. It absorbs 35% of the state budget. Meanwhile, the part of the budget for health care is less than one%.
On September 27, when the regime again turned to repression, the big powers and the U.N. made mild protests. They threw responsibility for the support of the dictatorship on China! They conveniently ignored the 40 years during which their international corporations reaped high profits under these same generals. Now that the opposition was dispersed by force, the imperialist powers call for a settlement of the conflict and demand that the generals show “restraint” in the repression. In other words, crack heads, but do it nicely!
No doubt, the Burmese dictatorship is murderous. But the imperialist powers, which share responsibility for these massacres, care nothing about that – so long as business continues as usual.