Burmese security forces lifted barricades around Buddhist temples on Monday after a violent crackdown pro-democracy demonstrations led by activist monks. A United Nations envoy dispatched to Myanmar—formerly known as Burma—met with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the weekend, and plans to meet next with the military junta’s top general, Than Shwe.
The world should stop at nothing to rid the Burmese of “Shwe and his cronies,” said Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post (free registration). “They have looted their country's natural wealth and turned its army into a monster that rapes” and murders its compatriots. But the generals will probably be able to hold on as long as they have the support of China—their main political and economic ally. If necessary, the U.S. should threaten to threaten to pull out of the Olympic Games Beijing is hosting next summer. The Games are important, but “some things matter more.”
We can’t count on China, with its horrible record on human rights, said the Houston Chronicle in an editorial, or on the limited sanctions already imposed on the “brutal generals” by the U.S. and Europe. The violent crackdown—which killed more than 10 people, including several monks—appears to have “crushed the protests.” The world will have to do more to ensure that the people of Myanmar did not face down their oppressors—if ever so briefly—in vain.”
Don’t underestimate the power of the monks to inspire change from within, said Seth Mydans in The New York Times (free registration). The monks marched peacefully with their black-lacquered begging bowls upside down, signaling that they would not accept alms from military leaders or their families. This effectively excommunicated the junta leaders from the religion that is at the core of Burmese culture.” The monks have ultimate “moral authority,” and there’s no telling what will happen now that they have denied the “legitimacy” of the junta’s power.