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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Monks rekindle hope for change in Myanmar

Amit Baruah, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 26, 2007
First Published: 03:23 IST(26/9/2007) | Last Updated: 03:54 IST(26/9/2007)
Suddenly, there's hope for a change in Myanmar. Ordinary people have joined the monks in protesting the military junta's brutal rule in a country where dissent has been always crushed and the results of 1990 elections simply ignored.  

As the direction of the protests and what the junta will do in response remains uncertain, there's considerable attention being paid to what neighbouring India and China will  do. Unlike China, which on Tuesday said it wanted to "see stability and economic development" in Myanmar, India hasn't said anything on the protests. 

"China always adopts the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said  in Beijing on Tuesday. "We hope and believe that the Yangon government and its people will properly handle the current issues," she added.

Inquiries with officials reveal that it's unlikely New Delhi will say anything about the events taking place in a country that has been under military rule since 1962 unless it is left with no option.

Given that the play of events at this point remains unclear, India, at best, could call for careful handling of the situation, that violence should be avoided and that New Delhi has always wanted a return to multi-party democracy.

A retired Indian diplomat said, "It appears that the fear factor among the people has diminished. For a regime where the fear factor is used to maintain order, this has the potential of turning into a 1989 type of (pro-democracy) movement," he said. 

China's involvement in Myanmar is, of course, far greater. There's no pretence about democracy involved here, which is why Myanmar pro-democracy activists are more concerned about Beijing while focusing, to a lesser extent, on India's role.  

In an editorial, the Irrawady magazine, which is devoted to Myanmar affairs, said on its website, "A violent crackdown by regime authorities and hired thugs remains a possibility…the regime knows it can resort to force in stamping out the democratic aspirations of the people. The main reason for its confidence can be summed up in one word — China."

It appears that Senior-General Than Shwe and his State Peace and Development Council, the official name for the junta, face the most serious crisis after martial law was imposed in 1989.

The former Indian diplomat pointed out that the shifting of the capital out of Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw, which was intended to secure the regime from protests, could have actually had the opposite effect.

The tipping point in Myanmar hasn't been reached yet, but the military has been put on notice.
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