Burmese soldiers fired on crowds of protesters for a second day Thursday, killing nine people, according to the military government. Buddhist monks were reportedly among the dead. Soldiers beat and arrested dozens of monks in pre-dawn raids on two monestaries.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “urgently dispatching” a special envoy to talk to the Southeast Asian country’s leaders. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on the crisis, but China blocked a resolution to condemn the crackdown.
China is “giving the regime a green light for brutal repression,” said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). All Burma’s “brave monks” and thousands of other peaceful protesters want is a simple dialogue, and the generals have responded with “tear gas, water cannons, and gunfire.” China has taken advantage of Burma’s “pariah status to turn it into a virtual economic colony.” If it lets money stand in the way of doing what’s right, it will have “blood on its hands.”
It already does, said The Seattle Times in an editorial. As many as eight monks died in the first day of the crackdown. The monks are “armed with moral authority and the culture’s deep respect.” They braved an order to stay in their monasteries and joined 100,000 protesters in the streets. The demonstrations began as a protest against higher fuel prices, but they have grown into an uprising against what the European Union and the U.S. called, in a joint statement, a “19-year reign of fear.”
By "standing up to the guns of a selfish regime," said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial, the monks are serving as a reminder of "religion's historic role in shaping the kind of moral concern for others that is the root of democracy." The world will soon see that "such higher values win the day over tyranny" every time.
Not without help, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration). The death toll will rise unless the world acts quickly. Unfortunately, China and Russia are blocking the Security Council from imposing sanctions. And “the West's lack of political, economic or moral leverage is as evident to the oppressed in Yangon as it has been to the victims of Darfur.” Surely by now the “brave monks” know they’ll get little more than “rhetorical support” from abroad for their “saffron revolution.”
This is a chance for the U.N. to act like “an arbiter of right and wrong on the world stage,” said The Miami Herald in an editorial (free registration). “It is what the United Nations is supposed to be all about—defending the rights of the oppressed against bullies with billy clubs and guns.” If U.N. diplomats merely “stand by and wring their hands in despair while Myanmar is beaten into submission,” they will bring shame upon themselves “and consign the United Nations to well-deserved irrelevance.”