The tyrannical, isolated authoritarian state of Myanmar, aka Burma, has finally made its way into the headlines. As usual, the news is not entirely positive. Following a rare rally against the government in relation to soaring energy costs and low-as-usual standards of living, the military-led government cracked down on protests led by several participants of a 1988 student uprising.
Myanmar's military junta arrested 13 prominent dissidents and put gangs of spade-wielding supporters on the streets of Yangon on Wednesday to halt protests against soaring fuel prices and falling living standards.
Despite the clampdown and the overnight arrest of the activists, 100 people staged an hour-long march before being dispersed. Five women and a man were arrested, although there was no violence, witnesses told Reuters.
"Onlookers applauded but failed to join the march," one said.
In a rare announcement in all state-run newspapers, the junta said the 13 dissidents were arrested for "agitation to cause civil unrest" and "undermining peace and security of the state" -- charges that could put them in jail for up to 20 years.
It's time for the world to be serious with Myanmar's military junta and stop bending the embargoes (e.g. India may be supplying the Rangoon regime with military helicopters) put in place to harm the government — though not the people.
The south-east Asian state is home to one of the most brutal regimes in the world and its tens of millions of people have suffered for years. Perhaps their plight would be the subject of more public and political attention if Myanmar was lucky enough to have vast oil resources. Nevertheless, Myanmar has one of the worst human rights records and any dissent to its authoritarian rulers is met with oppression. It's time for the state that holds Aung San Suu Kyi and many other political prisoners to be shown for what it is to the international community: a regime more than worthy of the label repressive.