The situation in Myanmar has been explosive since August, 2007, when the Buddhist monks came out into the streets of Yangon protesting against the rise in fuel prices, high cost of living and the lavish lifestyle of the military ruler. The saffron-robed monks were in a defiant mood and it was a horrified sight to see them protesting against the suspension of democracy and civil rights.
The entire world watched the reaction of the army which had been in the saddle for over 48 years. The very raison d’etre of the army rule was under threat, it was almost a do-or-die situation for the army rulers—they either had to stifle the opposition or risk losing the seat of power.
The Gandhigiri of the monks was not going to shake the military generals and the latter decided to use excessive force to stifle the protest. Scores of monks lay dead on the streets and independent correspondents were prohibited from taking photographs or reporting the events. The only source of news was through news channels based in Bangkok.
The conscience of the international community was stirred up and it responded by severely criticising the military ruler and offering moral support to the monks. Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader, was still under house arrest and not allowed to play her legitimate role even in the explosive situation.
The United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, visited Myanmar soon after the carnage and made abortive attempts to meet the military generals and open a dialogue with them. The monks staged a second protest on October 31, 07 in the central town of Pakokku, 370 miles northwest of Yangon, which suggests that the earlier crackdown could not eradicate the widespread anger at 46 years of military rule.
The monks were sticking to their demand for lower fuel prices, national reconciliation and relief to all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi. Earlier in 1988, the military had killed 3,000 protestors and arrested thousands.
The monks said that many schooled themselves in the ideology and tactics of Mahatma Gandhi, and other advocates of non-violent revolution, combining them with Buddhist teachings.
The monks and the general public had been fed up with the lavish style of the military junta, were millions were spent on Gen. Shwe’s daughter’s marriage, and the hair-brained scheme of shifting the capital of Myanmar, almost 300 miles north of Yangon in the mountain on the advice of astrologers.
The two key countries that could have brought pressure on the military junta to mend its ways and listen to the popular revolt India and China had kept silence for selfish interests. Myanmar is endowed with massive mineral resources including oil, natural gas, timber and precious stones.
The oil hungry neighboring giants, India and China, would like to grab the resources. There has been widespread criticism of Indian policy for having sacrificed human rights for selfish considerations.