Burma: 'Heading for a new crisis'


Since the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in October, there has been little in the mainstream media coverage of events in Burma. During the crackdown, many people were killed or disappeared by the military as society was placed under curfew.

Green Left Weekly spoke to Benya Aye, a Burmese solidarity activist who was involved in the 1988 uprising against the military junta and was imprisoned for two years, and is currently living in exile in Australia. According to Aye, "the curfew has since been lifted but things are very tense. The military is on full alert, even if it's not visible. As before, the military controls every aspect of people's lives. Since the crackdown, new regulations have been introduced that restrict people's freedom of movement."

Since the curfew there have only been two small protests, one involving 200 monks and another on November 26 of women. "There are two currents among activists in Burma. Some say wait and see, but there is growing impatience at the lack of UN action against the junta."

At a recent Burma solidarity event, it was revealed that the Burmese military is running low on funds and that further price rises are likely soon. The most recent round of demonstrations were in response to fuel price rises introduced at the behest of the International Monetary Fund. The military doesn't have much of a social base, recently building a new capital city in the jungle.

According to Aye, "Burma is heading for a period of crisis. The people of Burma are looking for a spark to express their discontent with the whole situation."

Currently resistance to the junta is taking the form of boycotts, with monks avoiding teaching and students being encouraged to boycott their exams.

Aye also stressed the importance of international solidarity. "How can such an unpopular regime survive for so long? It lives off Burma's gas and oil — we need to unplug it. No Australian company should be trading with Burma, full stop. We need mass public action against these companies like that waged against South Africa."

[The Sydney Burma Solidarity Group meets on Mondays at 6pm at the AMWU, 245 Chalmers Street Redfern. A screening of John Pilger's documentary Inside Burma: Land of Fear will be held on Tuesday December 11 at 7pm at Chauvel Cinema, Paddington, Sydney.]