– This morning I received the news that my own government of Denmark is now recommending all Danes to consider leaving Burma, or Myanmar as the Junta renamed this suffering nation. Other countries, like my second home Vietnam, have started evacuating their citizens from Burma. 300 Vietnamese just arrived safely here.
Surely, other foreign governments will do the same. I am not out this morning to blame governments or the frightened foreigners, who are running away from the killings in Burma. I am writing this, because I have very, very strong fears, what will happen next. Because I have seen it all before. I have seen what Tatmadaw (The killing machine of the Burmese generals) will do, when they operate without any restraint.
They kill, they kill, they kill – that’s how they deal with dissent, whether it is students, Buddhist monks or just any bystander, who happens to be present.
I was one of a handful of journalists, who found our ways to sneak into Burma to report from the ongoing slaughter, which swept across the country some 30 years ago. What we found our editors barely believed, that’s how bad it was.
Thousands had fled into the jungle, finding shelter with the Karen insurgents, who had fought the Burmese generals since World War II, or they were in hiding with the Shan guerillas. Other thousands were less fortunate. Here is what a catholic priest told me:
“I plead with President Bush, the UN, all the powers of the world to help us. They are closing the schools, the universities, the churches and the temples. People are disappearing without a trace. They have built new crematoriums next to the prisons. The chimneys are billowing with smoke day and night.”
Sadly, the world largely ignored the cries for help, including my own government. As typical for a young journalist and as pathetic as it might have been, I wrote a very angry op-ed in my newspaper, targeting the Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlüter for his silence on Burma. I doubt that he ever read it. The piece was buried on page 18.
Some governments did even worse. The Polish arms corporation Polski Zaklady Lotnicze sold 20 heavily armed MI2 helicopters to Tatmadaw. Poland’s own liberation hero, president Lech Walesa did nothing to stop the deal.
Swedish Bofors delivered state of the art patrol boats to Tatmadaw. The Swedish Prime Minister did not intervene.
The lethal shopping spree of Tatmadaw was largely financed by the French oil company Total with the full acceptance of the French government. Total got the first foreign oil concessions from Burma in return.
To make matters worse, the Thai general and later Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh let his son put together the infamous ‘blood for teak’-deal, which ensured Thailand a huge amount of precious Burmese teak wood. They paid by forcibly returning Burmese refugees in Thailand to their destiny at the hands of Tatmadaw.
I remember a disheartening talk in Copenhagen with the late Michael Aris, the husband of Burma’s incarcerated Aung San Suu Kyi. He had come to Denmark in an attempt to alert the Danish government to the carnage in Burma, invited by the Danish Burma Committee. No one but the committee bothered to listen to Michael Aris.
I am burdening my friends with all of this, as I see the writings on the wall on an early Tuesday morning in Hanoi. Honestly, the latest news from Burma kept me up much of the night. I am hearing long forgotten Burmese voices, as foreigners are scrambling out of Burma once again. A friend in Rangoon just messaged me a screen shot to show me, how his internet is going down. The Darkness is coming back.
In the short run, I am sure we will see a bit of uproar in the media and elsewhere, as the situation gets worse now in Burma. The generals might be a little cautious, until the world’s attention turns elsewhere due to other calamities.
I hope I am wrong, but I fear that I am right: Once the darkness engulfs Burma again, the killings will be systematic and on a much larger scale, as we have seen before.
The Tatmadaw will do so, because they know it works.