Military Dictators Cowed By A Comedian

When you think about it, it seems that the more repressive a military dictatorship becomes, the more obvious it becomes that the dictatorship is larglely comprised of weaklings and cowards. How else would you explain the reasoning behind a secret Burmese military court finding a Burmese activist and comedian guilty of essentially trying to bring aid to his countrymen who were displaced by cyclone Nargis, which besides property destruction, destruction of food supplies and injuries to humans, resulted in the deaths of 130,000 Burmese citizens.

As reported in the New York Times, a sentence of 45 years in prison was handed down:

A secret court run by Myanmar’s military leadership on Friday sentenced a prominent Burmese comedian and activist to 45 years in prison, continuing a recent crackdown on dissidents.

The comedian, U Maung Thura, 47, better known by his stage name Zarganar, or the Tweezers, was detained in June after he organized a private assistance effort to help victims of the May cyclone, which killed more than 130,000 Burmese. With aid organizations and Western governments, he criticized Myanmar’s handling of the disaster.

Mr. Maung Thura’s conviction was handed down by a court in Insein prison in Yangon, where many political prisoners are held. He was found guilty of violating several statutes, including the Electronic Act, which regulates all forms of electronic communication in the country. The act has increasingly been used by the ruling junta to justify long prison sentences against democracy advocates and others.

It seems that Thura is being punished for publicizing the obvious fact that the generals who rule Burma from their isolated capital city Napyidaw (“City of Kings”), where all common folk are banned, did little, if anything, in their power to bring relief to the victims of Nargis who had the misfortune of not being among the elite military rulers. Thura’s second mistake was actually delivering relief supplies and resources to his fellow citizens, which provided a counter-point to the fact that the military rulers provided no effective relief for their people, and in fact refused outside assistance from other countries who freely offered it.

The Burmese military dictatorship, which seized power in 1962 is interested in only maintaining their own, lavish life style, which is financed by the exportation of heroin from Burma to the rest of the world. Led by Senior General Than Shwe, they will do anything to quash any form of expression by the people, because they know, deep down inside themselves, there is no justification for their greed and repression. They are afraid that the voices of the people will be heard among their own countrymen. They are afraid of the monks, they are afraid of the students, they are afraid of a 63 year old woman named Aung San Suu Kyi, a peace and democracy activist who was denied her seat as Prime Minister (as duly elected) in 1990, and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Kyi has been keept under house arrest in Yangon by the military dictatorship for years.

Two people who have reputations for using words have the generals “soiling their pants scared”. What the generals do not understand, is that for every individual with a voice they “bury”, just spurs on more individuals to step forward and be heard.

For more background on Burma, the Wikipedia article is a good starting point. Another good source for the voice of the Burmese people is the Mother Irrawaddy blog.

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