Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting rough in Burma

Here's a somewhat dispiriting but, unfortunately, I think fairly solid analysis of the situation in Burma. The AP writer says the regime has shown it is willing to use force and the democracy movement has yet to produce a leader able to articulate the movement's goals and desires. The only mitigating factor that might keep bloodshed down if the protest forces don't sort of fade away is that the military is said to be better-trained in riot control and the use of non-lethal force to control or disperse crowds than in 1988. Although some might have wondered whether allowing the demonstrations, which began August 13 or 14, to go on so long was a sign of the regime's getting soft, the story suggests that the military's desire to hold onto power at all costs is as strong as ever -- indeed it might be the only thing the regime believes in.

A piece yesterday by TNR's Joshua Kurlantzick, who's done good reporting from several south Asian countries, is likewise discouraging. He explains the parallels between now and 1988, when similar demonstrations led to 3,000 people being slaughtered.

I still think it's possible -- if the media goes into "world-is-watching" mode and focuses intently on Burma for a while, even if Paris or Britney does something flamboyantly stupid -- that the situation can be resolved peacefully with some hope for reform, perhaps based on a pragmatic desire to attract more diverse investors. I doubt the regime will give up power or be toppled, but it might loosen the reins a bit, if it can be convinced that's the best way to hang onto power. Hardly an ideal outcome, but it would be better than a bloodbath, which is not beyond the realm of possibility.

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