Burmese bloggers defy the junta’s media crackdown to report live from the Saffron Revolution. Also, it’s been a bad week for Blackwater.
Warning: Links throughout may contain graphic footage or images.
Scenes from a revolution: The military dictatorship that rules Myanmar succeeded in keeping Buddhist monks isolated in their monasteries and shut down Internet service Friday. Despite those hardships, and undaunted by the shooting of Japanese photographer Kenji Nagai at point-blank range by a Burmese soldier, brave Burmese citizens have managed to stay online or e-mail their harrowing dispatches from what has now been dubbed the Saffron Revolution.
At Blog of Nyein Chan Yar, “Ancient Ghost” writes: “I got a news from my friends that last night some militray guys searched office computers from Traders and Sakura Tower building. Most of the downtown movement photos were took from office rooms of those high buildings…Burma is blacked out now!” Mr. Jade has a screen capture of a Web browser trying to access the U.N.’s Web site from Myanmar: “Myanmar government is denying people access to the outside world for plea. News blogs, which are revealing the events in Myanmar, have also been blocked.”
One anonymous Burmese blogger at Global Voices Online elaborates on the junta’s crackdown of cyber-dissidents: “To make the matter worse, BaganNet, Myanmar main ISP has been shut down by so-called ‘maintenance reasons’ and most of the telecommunication services have been cut off or tapped. Information flow out of the country has been strictly monitored and even the amateur photographers are warned to be very careful as the Junta is hunting down the sources.”
Ko Htike’s Prosaic Collection is the most popular Burmese blog. Today, he posted: “I will also try my best to feed in their demonic appetite of fear and paranoia by posting any pictures that I receive though other means . … I will continue to live with the motto that ‘if there is a will there is a way’. We probably need to lobby the Chinese government or UN envoy to Burma to ask the junta to switch on the Internet. Please!”
Yet scattered updates and eyewitness accounts are leaking out. At about 4:30 today, Burmese site Niknayman divulged: “There might be a little over 100,000 people on the main roads of Mandalay, filled with Buddhist monks and civilians. Military has withdrawn from previous positions. No shooting yet.” [ Read the English translation.]
Also, the BBC has compiled a list of eyewitness e-mails about the chaos in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). One person, Myat, writes: “A group of more than 50 soldiers and riot police just passed in front of our office. They are planning something but I do not know what. About 14:00 I saw a group of protesters - about 30 people - being arrested and prepared to be taken somewhere else by soldiers with green scarfs. They were also forced to squat with their hands behind their heads like prisoners. Teargas was used but I heard no gun shots.”
At Jeff Hess’ Have Coffee Will Write, one of his Burmese readers mails in the following update: “yesterday i delivered two hundred twenty pounds of rice and 400 bottles of water to a for the robed ones. i covered it all with blankets in the back of my truck to avoid being seen. the only news we have of via cnn and bbc and internet. they have moved the lady. [Pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.]” And the latest update from Mizzima News is that “[m]ilitary aircrafts from the Matehtilar airbase are airborne. It is not known why the aircrafts have scrambled. On the other hand there is commotion in the Light Infantry Division 33 and 99 of the Burma Army.”
Sen. John McCain has spoken forcefully on the human rights violations taking place in Myanmar. He took a conference call with bloggers, during which Outside the Beltway’sconservative James Joyner “asked for clarification on ‘strong action.’ He responded that we must bring more pressure on China to bring pressure on the Burma government, call on ASEAN to ‘throw ‘em out,’ and use ‘any trade and economic sanctions at our disposal,” unilateral or otherwise.’ “
More on-the-ground photos are available at Justice and Injustice. From Thailand, Jotman is following the events and posting updates. Supporters are uploading their “red shirt for Burma” photos to Flickr.
Read more dispatches from Myanmar.
Black mark: The U.S. Embassy report on a Sept. 16 incident involving Blackwater USA has concluded that the private security contractors had faced “mayhem” that may have accounted for the death of 11 Iraqis and the wounding of 12 more. Still, the episode raises further concerns about mercenary forces in a war zone that do not fall under the jurisdiction or oversight of the U.S. military. The New York Times reported Thursday that Blackwater tops all other security firms for the highest rate of shooting incidents.
Lefty Tony Carson at Carson’s Post says regulation and oversight of private security firms is a must: “This latest episode should be a wake-up call to the downsides of outsourcing so much of the Iraq war — and should prompt better regulation and oversight. Until now, it’s as if the Bush administration and Congress have averted their eyes as the role of private contractors has exploded to the point that the U.S. military can’t function without them in Iraq.”
Liberal Jim Booth at Scholars & Rogues has an anger-inducing statistic: “A typical American soldier’s pay while on active duty in Iraq, including allowances for things like housing and uniforms is less than $38,000 per year. A typical Blackwater Security guard is paid about $120,000 per year.”
Helmut at Phronesisaical, a “Politics, Philosophy, International Affairs, and Fruit” blog, thinks “these Blackwater cases and others like them are nothing but murder. There is a pattern and until the shootings at Nisour Square, this pattern was not public (as in American public, not Iraqi public) and the State Department apparently had little inclination to make these cases public or punish or even criticize Blackwater.”
Read more about Blackwater.