Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beaten, but not Defeated

The Irrawaddy News

The bullets were about to fly in Rangoon and other cities on that day and the days ahead. Unbelievably, their targets were the students in white shirts and green longyi who were at the forefront of the marching columns of people from all walks of life, demanding democracy. Soon after the gunfire started, all that remained in the streets was blood, ownerless sandals, the smoke of guns and the groans and tears of those who had survived.

For a brief moment, the people had tasted victory after toppling the authoritarian regime that had clamped down on the country for 26 years. Sadly, that emancipation was soon replaced by the bitter realization that gun power had managed to defeat people power once again.

The result was at least 3,000 deaths, many more injured and jailed, and a flood of thousands of students and activists forced to flee into a life of exile. The tragedy began on August 8, 1988—21 years ago today.

The extraordinary events of that day have been permanently etched into the memories of those who witnessed them, and have become a part of the long saga of a nation whose struggle for independence began in the 19th century, and continues to this day.

If the current phase of this struggle, which began 21 years ago, were a person, it would be at the height of its youthful vigor. But after more than two decades, Burma’s pro-democracy movement is far from being in good health. It is not defeated, but it has been brutally beaten. Its leaders have been imprisoned and its forces have been scattered around the world. It wanders the earth, anguished, with no way to return to its home.

So far, nothing has succeeded in loosening the stranglehold of military rule. Non-violent protest and armed struggle have both failed to restore democracy. Neither sanctions nor engagement have persuaded the regime to relinquish its hold on power. Diplomacy has fallen on deaf ears, and prayers for peace have not penetrated the generals’ hardened hearts.

So what else is left?

It seems like all of our options have been exhausted, while Burma itself lurches perpetually on the brink of collapse. The worst nightmares of most countries are the daily reality of life in Burma.

But in life, the darkest despair can sometimes simply vanish, like a cloud that gathers and then passes. The Berlin Wall that divided Germany looked, for several long decades, like it might last forever. But then, it was gone, and with it the Cold War that had gripped the entire planet for what seemed an eternity.

The Burmese are no strangers to tragedy. They saw their country fall to a foreign power, but they fought on, determined to restore their dignity as a nation. In the end, they won their independence because they knew—with absolute certainty—that they were a sovereign people. It was a truth as undeniable as the sky, which the dark cloud of foreign domination could not obscure forever.

Today, Burma is darkened by different clouds, but its people are sustained by the same determination as their ancestors. The Burmese know that they are as free as any other people on earth, and that it is only the deadly delusions of their rulers that prevent this truth from shining through for all to see.

In the end, the clouds will pass, the bruises will heal, and Burma will show the world its true worth and beauty.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too