Saffron suffering goes on
It is three years on from the iconic “Saffron Revolution” when protestors swept through the streets of Burma. The world watched with bated breath, as footage captured by brave and clandestine reporters revealed the largest show of public discontent against the military government in Burma since the 1988 pro-democracy uprising gathered momentum. Tens of thousands of protesters – led by Buddhist monks – took to the streets in August and September 2007, demanding economic and political reform.
The crack down that followed was brutal and extensive. Thousands of people were detained, many of whom are still enduring appalling conditions in jail, facing sentences of up to 65 years.
The junta’s actions provoked international condemnation, including an unprecedented expression of revulsion and demands for change from the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Yet despite the attention and condemnation, over 2, 200 political prisoners remain in Burmese prisons, excluded from any involvement in the democratic process in the run up to the first elections held in the country in 20 years, set for 7 November. Amnesty is calling for their immediate and unconditional release, so far the call has fallen on deaf ears. You can take action on behalf of the prisoners here
If the authorities are content to ignore external discontent, they might be less willing to turn a blind eye to the protest simmering within their own ranks. The BBC reports today of strikes within the military because of reduced rations and suspended pay. Economic concerns and rising fuel and commodity prices were elements that contributed to the 2007 protests. One soldier is ominously quoted as saying:
"If we don't get back our savings, we might join with the people outside and protest."
Without the army, the junta would be stripped of the means by which to enforce a brutal suppression of peaceful protests as enacted in 2007, and in such circumstances, the playing field might just have been sufficiently levelled to make for a very different ending.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.