Sunday, October 28, 2007

Myanmar's monks, veterans of 1988 democracy uprising united by goal of ousting junta

Source: AsiaOne News

It fell to Buddhist monks, normally nonpolitical advocates of loving kindness, to lead Myanmar's recent uprising, taking over from veteran activists who had secretly organized and planned to confront the ruling military.

"We had to stand up and lead," said U Kovida, a young monk who was a key protest organizer and fled to Thailand recently, joining members of a generation bloodied as young students in Myanmar's 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

The "88 Generation" decided this summer that the time had come to again take on their country's junta.

The uprising, which persisted for several weeks before being brutally put down by the military late last month, was portrayed at first as a protest against a government hike in fuel prices.

In fact, protest leaders say, the marches were orchestrated by longtime activist groups that feared progress in the government's so-called "road to democracy" would cement the military's power for generations more.

"The army was preparing to rule the country for a long time, through the lives of our sons and grandsons. We knew we had to act," said Hlaing Moe Than, 37, a 1988 protest leader who spent eight years in prison, where he says he was tortured.

Hlaing Moe Than is among a handful of leaders who, along with associates, have emerged recently on the Thai side of the 1,800-kilometer (1,100-mile) border with Myanmar. They fled their homeland during the recent government crackdown, often making harrowing escapes.

Though welcoming pressure on the junta from the United Nations, the United States and others, the protest leaders say they cannot count on the outside world to end the military rule that began in 1962 in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

"The struggle will have to be won from inside, but we need favorable international conditions," Hlaing Moe Than said.

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