Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tyranny in Burma, No Thanks to Malaysia

164 protestors, mostly Christians, were arrested in Malaysia for protesting the Burmese military's destruction of a cross, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma:

More than 160 Burmese nationals, mainly Chin Christians including three women, were arrested on 17 January for holding an “illegal” protest against Burma’s military junta, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) outside its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, according to the Malaysian police.

But they were protesting against the destruction of a cross planted on a Calvary Hill in Matupi Township, Chin State in northwest Burma, on 3 January by the soldiers of the junta.

A Chin national who took part in the protest but escaped the arrest, Ko San Aung told DVB that, to add insult to the injury, the soldiers celebrated the destruction of the cross on 4 January, Burma’s Independence Day by planting a victory flag where the cross used to be. He added that the protesters also tried to highlight the religious persecutions carried out by the Burmese junta against all religions in Burma.

Any gathering of three or more people without a permit is illegal in Malaysia. If convicted, the protesters could be jailed for up to one year or fined. “They tend to send them (protesters), be they refugees, legal or illegal migrant workers, to Thailand. I think they could do that,” said San Aung.

Some of the protesters are registered as refugees at the local UNHCR office and some of them are staying in the country as illegal migrant workers.
The persecution of Christians (and other non-Buddhist minorities) in Burma has barely been reported, despite the fact that the tactics, if not the scale, of the oppression is similar to those in Sudan. Burma has neither a free press nor an independent judiciary. The Christian Post, with regard to the above story, notes:
Persecution watchdog groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs have reported that Buddhism is strongly entrenched in the Burmese majority. Only about five percent of Christians in Burma are converts from Buddhism. VOM also reported that Christian sites and graveyards are frequently demolished and replaced with pagodas, often using Christians as forced labor. Christians have been raped, tortured and murdered.
The arrest of the protestors by the Malaysian government is sad, of course, but only marginally sadder than the failure of the Western press to take note of the crisis. Many on the left have said that one of the weaknesses in the Bush doctrine is that there are other forms of tyranny besides terrorism. However, the crises in Sudan and Burma do not necessarily require military intervention. If Western leftists were one tenth as interested in these people as they are in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, their suffering could be greatly reduced.

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