A United Nations envoy met with Burmese military leader Gen. Than Shwe on Tuesday in an effort to broker an end to a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Opposition groups say as many as 200 protesters were killed as police fired on crowds over several days, and hundreds of Buddhist monks who joined the protests were arrested; the military junta says 10 people died.
There’s no reason to believe anyone can “bring the Burmese generals to their senses,” said syndicated columnist Tom Plate in The Seattle Times. But don’t worry, these thugs are fighting “a loser’s game.” They have stupidly tried to raise “an electronic curtain around the country” by jamming cell phones and cutting Internet service, but they couldn’t keep bloggers with tiny cellphone cameras from focusing an “unprecedented” spotlight on their crimes. The generals can “shoot monk after monk,” but their days are numbered.
“It takes a lot to make a Buddhist monk mad,” said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial. That’s why the images of thousands of monks risking beatings—and worse—to stand up to the brutal military regime has “sparked such international outrage.” The U.S. has tried to help with stronger sanctions against the junta’s leaders. “Unfortunately, it seems that the countries who hold the most sway with the junta—Thailand, China, India, and Malaysia, among other countries—have been the quietest,” because they make money from the troubled nation’s natural resources.
It’s time for the world to stop playing the generals’ game, said H.D.S. Greenway in The Boston Globe (free registration). For one thing, we can all stop referring to the nation as Myanmar—the military regime changed the name from Burma in 1989. Many U.S. newspapers are playing along with the generals’ “name game” by calling the country Myanmar—just as they called Cambodia “Kampuchea” to suit the Khmer Rouge. Soon, when the junta and its names wind up in history’s “trash” heap, Myanmar will once again be Burma, and Yangon will be Rangoon.