Burma Update

The above is a helpful slide show and background to the current crisis in Burma from Slate. It's by Brendan Koerner who tells me "I was in northwest Burma (Sagaing Division) last winter. Very creepy--the paranoia and misery hang thick in the air." His conclusion:

"This is the most repressive, brutal evil regime on the planet right now."

Newly released video of the junta's brutality, smuggled out of the country, can be seen here. Aung Din of the U.S. Campaign for Burma has helped compile more hard data on the atrocities in Burma. He believes the civilian fatalities during the unrest was around 200, many gunned down in the streets of Rangoon. There are reports that the military is burning the bodies of protesters to conceal evidence of brutality. The assault on various monasteries is particularly offensive to anyone who cares about religious freedom, and if you assume that many of the hundreds or maybe thousands of dissident monks have been murdered, the death toll could be much higher. Here's Aung Din's account, gleaned from internal Burmese sources, of what happened once the attack on the monasteries had been launched. I've left the occasionally ungrammatical English uncorrected. It continues after the jump:

Major crack down against the monks began at midnight of September 26 and early morning of September 27. Security forces raided Buddhist monasteries in Rangoon, and Myitkyina, Moe Nyin and Bhamo Townships in Kachin State.

In early morning, the SPDC troops, as instructed by Divisional Commander Major General Ohn Myint, surrounded monasteries in Myitkyina, Bhamo and Moe Nyin Townships in Kachin State. Soldiers broke the doors and entered the compounds as if they were occupying enemy camps. Monks were brutally beaten and over 300 monks were taken by the soldiers. When residents came to see the monasteries, they saw blood and damage everywhere. People believed that at least seven monks were beaten to death during the raids.

In Rangoon, several monasteries in South Okkalapa, North Okkalapa, Tamwe, Yankin, Thingangyun, Bahan, and Insein were raided by the troops at midnight and early morning.

Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery is a famous Buddhist teaching center, located in South Okkalapa Township, with about 350 monks. These monks all took part in the peaceful protests; as they did in the 1988 popular uprising. Therefore, this monastery was a major target of the SPDC. Early morning of Sept, 27, several hundred soldiers came with over 20 trucks and attacked the monastery. They brutally attacked the monks, arrested over 200 monks and left before dawn. When people from neighbor came to see the monastery in the morning, when curfew order was over, they amazingly saw bloods spattering all over the monastery and about 50 monks left alone with injuries and trauma. They were told by the remaining monks that several monks were beaten to death by the soldiers. While the people were treating the injuries of the monks, the military troops came back again to pick up the rest of the monks. The people had to disperse from the monastery as the soldiers threatened to shoot, but regroup later with large number and block the way of the military troops and demanded for the release of the monks. Situation was tense, soldiers fired at crowds and people also threw stones at them. After two hours of stand-off, addition soldiers came in and they fired at the crowd. At least 8 people were killed and their bodies were taken by the troops.

Also in South Okkalapa Township, Shwe Hinthar Buddhist Teaching Center at 14th quarter was also raided by the soldiers at the same night and people from neighborhood tried to protect the monks. The military troops fired at the crowd and several people were killed and injured. The troops took away over 70 monks to an unknown location.

Similar attacks happened at Moe Gaung Monastery in Yankin Township as well, at midnight. The military troops occupied the monastery, beat the monks and arrested over 300 monks and put them at a large hall inside the monastery.

Several other monasteries in Bahan, Thingangyun, Insein, North Okkalapa and Tamwe were also raided by the soldiers at the same night. These monasteries are famous in Buddhist teaching and have at least two hundred monks each. They faced the same attack as described above and several hundreds of monks were arrested. We believed that over 400 monks were arrested from these monasteries.