Thursday, March 27, 2008

Time’s up, Gambari

Irrawaddy Online, Thursday, March 27, 2008

Time’s up, Gambari!


The United Nation's mediation efforts in Burma have become snared in a trap. The special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is now caught between an unsuccessful mediation and his reluctance to admit failure.

Frustration abounds. Gambari appears to have become the target of mounting disappointments. Most Burmese opposition groups would say he deserves it.

During his briefing on Burma with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on March 18, Gambari seemed anxious to prove how important his role as special envoy really was. Though he admitted his efforts had yielded “no immediate tangible outcome,” he insisted the efforts of the UN good offices were “relevant” to both sides—the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime. Gambari even said in his briefing that he had reason to believe that the Burmese government attaches importance to his mission and "continues to value the Secretary-General's good offices as the best prospect for further cooperation through mutual trust and confidence, and constructive suggestions."

Unfortunately, the facts do not allow the special envoy grounds for such optimism. According to highly publicized state media reports, Burmese Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan urged him to support the junta’s “Seven-step Road map” and stop pursuing alternatives suggested by Western democracies.

The regime's information czar added that if Gambari tried to force the country to meet Western calls for reform, “We would be concerned that your task of offering impartial advice may be undermined.” As a clear indication of the regime's lack of cooperation, military chief Than Shwe, the only true decision-maker in Burma, shunned Gambari on his last two visits.

In fact, the junta has already rejected the UN's key proposals. It turned down suggestions that Burma should set up a broad-based constitutional revising commission in order to ensure an inclusive political process, and establish a poverty alleviation commission. After the two proposals were rejected, Gambari, on his last trip to the country, put forward one more suggestion to the junta—that Burma invite international observers to the upcoming referendum.

Reportedly, the junta's information minister responded with a blunt “no.”

Additionally, senior Burmese military officials announced that the new constitution would bar Aung San Suu Kyi from running in future elections because she was previously married to a foreigner, a British scholar, who died of cancer nine years ago.

Gambari's failure has become so severe that he could not even manage to persuade the Security Council members to release a much-anticipated Presidential Statement after his briefing. However, the Council may release a Presidential Statement on Burma next week, thanks to the hard work of US-led Western democracies. Council members are now negotiating the language of the statement. However, no one should expect a strong statement from the UNSC, a diplomat warned. "It will be a statement with a very mild tone," said a source close to the UN.The faith of Burmese dissident groups in Gambari's mission is about to hit rock bottom.

"We hoped he (Gambari) would ask the Council to strengthen the mandate of the Secretary-General in pressuring the junta for an all party-inclusive, transparent and democratic process of national reconciliation in our country. However, to our surprise and sadness, he misled the Council," read a joint statement issued by the All Burma Monks Alliance and the 88 Generation Students group on March 26.

In fact, there may be a valid reason to consider broader factors for his ineffectiveness and do justice to Gambari.

"Mr Gambari's efforts should be understood in a larger context, instead of over-focusing on his diplomatic skill. The success of Gambari's mission depends on the readiness of key international players to use their leverage over the Burmese junta," said Dr Thaung Tun, UN representative of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma—effectively the Burmese government in exile. "At the same time, we also need to review how Gambari engages the junta; whether or not he adheres to the line of principled engagement."

UN officials maintain that "the role of the good offices is still very intact" and "very much a work in progress."

"I do understand there is the expression of frustration, but you can't expect miracles to happen to a situation that has been going years and years," said Choi Soung-ah, a UN spokeswoman. "Mr Gambari currently is the world's only tie into the government of Myanmar [Burma]. From the UN perspective, it is very important not to take drastic action immediately because we don't want to shut down the only channel."

This channel, however, can prompt disservice to genuine international mediation efforts on Burma. According to senior diplomats in Europe, the argument prevailing among Asian countries—including China and even some European nations—is that they support the UN special envoy's mediation. So long as Gambari says his mission is relevant and can yield positive results, they will not undermine him. They will support him—and wait and see.

"In fact, they justify their handoff policy by hiding behind Gambari's mission," a senior diplomat from the EU told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity. "Unless Gambari admits that he can't do anything with the present mandate, he is unwittingly dragging the mediation effort into the swamp. No better alternative will be found."

Aung Din, the executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, agrees."Burma is now being hijacked by Gambari," said Aung Din. "His effort has failed miserably again and again and again. Unless the mission is enhanced and strengthened by the UN Security Council, nothing positive can be expected. But instead of admitting that, he is still acting like he remains relevant and can do magic. It is a high disservice to international mediation efforts. For the people of Burma, we feel betrayed."

In fact, Gambari has already exhausted his capacity for persuasion, the principal source of leverage that a mediator wields. Instead of drowning himself further in quagmire, he may want to use another source of leverage—his own termination. As a mediator, he can say "I withdraw now. I can't make any progress with the current mandate. I need stronger Security Council support to deal with the Burmese generals."

Of course, his withdrawal will not have a direct impact on the military junta—the generals in Naypyidaw are not so sensitive to such threats. But it will make China and Asean feel more pressured to cooperate with Western democracies to resolve Burma's crisis.

At least, it will be easier for US-led Western democracies to compel China and Asean (especially two current Council members: Indonesia and Vietnam) to approve a stronger Council mandate for the UN special envoy. All in all, if Gambari uses the threat of withdrawal skillfully it could yield a greater opportunity to raise the Burma issue in the UN Security Council.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Silencing the 'Saffron Revolution'

Silencing the 'Saffron Revolution'

by Min Zin

Posted March 25, 2008 (Far Eastern Economic Review)

On Feb. 15, the military stormed the offices of the Myanmar Nation and took my brother, the weekly journal's editor in chief, to jail. His crime? Possession of a United Nation’s report on the ruling junta’s brutal crackdown on last September’s demonstrations by monks and democracy activists—the so-called Saffron Revolution.

My brother's name is Thet Zin, and he is one of hundreds of Burmese citizens who struggle to tell the truth about what is happening in their country—whether through traditional forms of journalism or through the Internet—under threat of arrest or worse by the military regime.

Indeed, even as the Burmese military promises the United Nations it will implement its "Roadmap to Democracy," the generals are stepping up their crackdown on the media. News of my brother's arrest was painful, but I should have been prepared for it. This kind of brutal repression and disregard for freedom of speech is the defining phenomenon of daily life in Burma.

The irony here is that my brother, who was a political prisoner in 1988, has not been involved in clandestine political activities or activist groups since he began working as a reporter and editor for several legally published weekly journals in the early 2000s. He founded Myanmar Nation Weekly, where he worked as editor in chief until his arrest, in 2006.

When the military raided the offices of Myanmar Nation, they discovered video footage of last September's Buddhist monk-led protests, a copy of the aforementioned report by U.N. Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, and a book about federalism written by a veteran Shan ethnic leader. Along with my brother, his office manager, Sein Win Maung, was also arrested. The authorities confiscated mobile phones and computer hard-drives during the raid.
In early March, both were charged under section 17/20 of the Printers and Publishers Registration Law. The court cited the U.N. report as evidence of possessing "illegal material" in order to set up a case against my brother. If found guilty, they could serve up to seven years' imprisonment. The publication of Myanmar Nation has also been suspended since their arrest.

Sadly, my brother's case is not uncommon. In the wake of last September's protests, the military has stepped up its crackdown on the media and severely curtailed freedom of expression. At least 20 journalists have been arrested in the past six months, although many were released after severe interrogations. According to Reporters Without Borders, 11 journalists are known to be imprisoned in Burma, including 78-year-old U Win Tin, who has been in jail since July 1989.

The exile-based Burmese Media Association (BMA), however, places the number of imprisoned writers—including journalists, poets, fiction writers, etc.—at 30. These journalists, writers and poets, who exercise their free speech as a birthright, add to the more than 1,800 political prisoners who, according to Human Rights Watch, are still behind bars.

Since the Buddhist monk-led protests of September last year, about a dozen publications in Burma have been banned or suspended for allegedly failing to follow the directives of the regime’s censorship board.

Burma, which enjoyed perhaps the liveliest free press in Southeast Asia until the 1962 military coup, is now facing some of the severest media repression in the nation’s history. The Burmese military launched a "fight media with media" campaign in 2005 in order to "rebuff the unfair and baseless news produced by the Western media." The junta's notorious censorship board has imposed ever more stringent restrictions on private publications. Journalists are pressured to write articles in line with the regime's views and policies. Journals and magazines are forced to print an increasing number of "planted" pro-junta articles.

"The situation is now getting worse and very rigid," says Zaw Thet Htwe, a well-known journalist inside Burma, who himself received the death penalty in 2003 for sending reports to the outside world, a sentence which was later reduced to three years imprisonment due to international pressure. "The news journals are increasingly facing a hard time due to the whimsical regulations. The atmosphere of fear and pressure for self-censorship has been growing."
Thankfully, the Burmese people's main sources of information remain free from the military's abuses. They are the daily Burmese language radio broadcasts from abroad by the BBC (Burmese Service), Voice of America (Burmese Service), Radio Free Asia, and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

At the height of the protests last year, large numbers of people (including military personnel) relied on these broadcasts for information. The regime’s anger was apparent in state-controlled newspapers and TV announcements that described the radio broadcasters as "killers on the airwaves" and "saboteurs" who were "airing a sky full of lies." In addition to radio, DVB launched a new Burmese language TV broadcast in May 2005 that can be received via satellite in Burma. The TV broadcast was a main source of news during the September protests.

Now, a new generation of Burmese has found another means of defying the junta's thought police: the Internet. Although less than 1% of the total population has access to the Internet in Burma, that 1% generally has access to cell phones, digital cameras and memory sticks and can disseminate information widely. During last September's protests, these "cyber dissidents"—citizen reporters and bloggers—posted hundreds of images and eyewitness accounts of the Saffron Revolution and the regime's brutality on the Internet.

Unlike the 1988 pro-democracy uprising—when the killing of at least 3,000 unarmed demonstrators received little international attention—images of violence against last fall's protestors, including the killing of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, spread fast throughout the world and helped ignite international outrage.

The regime, of course, responded by hunting down and arresting those who posted the images, and by further limiting access to the Internet. Internet café owners are now reportedly forced to install spy software provided by military intelligence officials that take automatic screen shots of user activity every five minutes. The monitoring results then have to be delivered to the military for surveillance.

Meanwhile, the military promises the outside world that it is marching toward "democracy" with its constitutional referendum in May and new elections in 2010. But nearly all observers agree that the military’s constitution won't lead to legitimate political freedom or national reconciliation. Violations of human rights are expected to continue, as are repression and censorship of the media.

"Though the military promises reform by holding a constitutional referendum in May," says Maung Maung Myint, chairman of the Burmese Media Association, “the arrest of journalists and constraints on the free flow of information clearly demonstrate that the regime discourages any informed public debate on their draft constitution."

Clearly, my brother and other recently detained journalists are being held by the junta in an effort to spread fear among Burma’s defiant media in the run-up to the constitutional referendum. Without outside pressure, the sad fact is these tactics will likely succeed—and the Burmese people will continue to suffer under a repressive military dictatorship, and those brave journalists and writers willing to challenge Burma's censors will be silenced.

Min Zin is a Burmese journalist living in exile in the United States.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Min Zin: Let Lenin meet YouTube and set Burma free

Aktuálně.cz (Online Interview)
18:40 10.3.2008 Pavel Vondra

Min Zin: Let Lenin meet YouTube and set Burma free

Prague - Despite his young age, Min Zin can already be considered a veteran of pro-democracy struggle in his native Burma. He became involved in the movement at the age of 14, when he founded a nationwide high school student union.
By doing that he buried his parents´ hopes he would ever obtain a degree from a Burmese univeristy but at the same time he helped ressurect hopes of his nation to see the end of the hated military rule in the country.
Min Zin closely worked with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1989, he was forced into hiding. During this period he was dismissed from school and constantly chased by the military intelligence.
Following the 1996 December student demonstration he fled to the Thai-Burma border. Thereafter, he worked as a deputy editor for the exile magazine Irrawaddy.
Min Zin came to the United States in August 2001 as a visiting scholar at the School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He later joined the Burmese Service of Radio Free Asia.
Min Zin is a member of the Rudolf Vrba Jury at this year's One World Film Festival in Prague. He was also one of the speakers at last week's seminar titled Dissidents and Freedom, organized by the festival with the help of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Černínský Palace in Prague.
READ MORE: Havel sounds call for dissidents across world to unite
Today Min Zin was answering questions posed by the readers of Aktuálně.cz in an on-line interview:
Q: Would you recommend travelling to Burma? I was there last year and saw group tours of Spanish people who cared about nothing else but buying souvenirs and it really made me sick.
Bagan is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its ancient pagodas and prefect sunsets attract a lot of touristsvětší obrázekAutor: Pavel Vondra
Min Zin writes: The opposition movement in Burma calls for travel boycott, not because they don't like travelling per se, but because military uses forced labor for building tourist infrastructure and etc. But to me, I don't mind individual travelling or responsible touring so long as you try your best not to spend money for military owned big hotels and other facilities. (It is hard but you can find some ways to do so).
I may have more reservation or reluctance for institution or groups tour because military can exploit it not only for financial reasons but also for public relation reasons by citing these big tour groups.
Q: Aren't you afraid of the possible ethnic violence and civil war in case of the current regime's fall?
Min Zin writes: Well, Burma has been already described as a failing or failed state. Civil war has been there for 50 years. The longest and being forgotten one! Forced labor, child soldier, human rights violations, severe violence in ethnic areas, about 2,000 political prisoners, corruption, humanitarian crisis, etc - you name it.
The country ranks at the bottom in all these categories - check the reports of UN, AI, HRW, RSF, CPJ, Freedom House, Transparency International, EU, US State Dept, etc. Check also the annual Failed State Index of Foreign Policy magazine for reference. I think it is not even time to rank Burma in failed state category, it is now time to act and stop more bloodshed and violence.
Hit them where it hurts. China pressured over Burma
A call from Prague: Dictators of the world, go to hell
Snowball gets rolling. Havel calls for action on Burma
Machine gun rounds instead of democracy
Q: What is your worst experience from Burma? Have you ever witnessed torture, rape or killing of civilians which the Burmese military are often accused of?
Min Zin writes: I saw several killings (shooting events) in front of my very eyes when I took part in the public protests in August 1988 (08-08-88 Movement.) I was then a high school student of 14 years old. Then I have known many of my colleagues being tortured in prison (including my siblings) and died in prison (my uncle, close colleagues, childhood friends and etc). When arrived at the Thai - Burma border where I met many ethnic women who suffered from military's abuses including rape. These are well documented as well.
Q: How do people in Burma perceive Aung San Suu Kyi? Do they know her at all?
Min Zin writes: Of course, ASSK is the only hope for Burma if the country needs to proceed the transition. Let alone the people from the heartland who admire her father as a hero from the struggle for independence, but more importantly the ethnic minority groups, who fight for autonomy for 50 years, support her. Even ordinary soldiers supported her. When you look at 1990 elections results, military districts voted for her party. She has been perceived as the one who rally the whole country for reconciliation and nation-building.
Q: Can the current negotiations between opposition and government lead to anything?
Min Zin writes: There is no negotiation going on between the regime and opposition. They staged a few meetings with ASSK, in the wake of Saffron Revolution (protests) in September last year, in order to defuse international pressure. Now things go back to square one. They have excluded opposition led by ASSK once and for all from future elections and political process. That's where the real contention lies for now.
Min Zin sitting next to ex-president Václav Havel at a seminar Dissidents and Freedom held at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairsvětší obrázekAutor: Naďa Straková
Q: Good afternoon, I would like to know your opinion on how the current regime could be changed into a democratic one. Is there a way that world can help you with this? And do you agree with the guerilla war against the regime?
Min Zin writes: I don't think the violent resistance will help the situation in Burma. But coordinated international pressure will help the situation. In this regard, it is important to get China to play responsibly in Burma issue. The US and EU can't outsource Burma problem to China, which itself is authoritarian country. But the West must push China to do more on Burma.
At the same time, civil-disobedient and civil society movement inside the country will make things different. But it is hard that "People Power" will defeat the united military, which is still willing to kill its own citizens. So encouraging the emergence of moderates within the ruling military is another thing to consider. In any case, (domestic as well as international) public actions are always needed to make change faster in Burma.
Q: Do you have relatives in Burma? Are you in touch with them? If so, how do you stay in touch, if it's not a secret? How are they doing?
Min Zin writes: Yes, I have two brothers and one sister in Burma. Unfortunately, my eldest brother Thet Zin was arrested by military regime in Feb 15, 2008. He is the editor of a weekly journal in Burma. His office was raided for 3 times in a week. He was tortured during interrogation. Now he is being charged with possession of illegal materials. It means when they raided his office, the human rights report of UN Human Right Envoy to Burma was confiscated by military. Having a HR report is illegal in Burma.
He said to his wife that he might likely to face minimum 10 years imprisonment for this charge. He is a former political prisoner too. He was arrested in 1988 student protests. You can google the arrest of my brother and the case. US president also entioned his name in his recent public statement. The Amnesty Ineternational, HRW and etc also highlighted on his case. I fact, almost every members of my family got arrested in past 20 years for their non-violent political involvement.
Q: Do you believe that (UN special envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim) Gambari's visits can force the Burmese government to actually do something? Wouldn't it be better to put pressure on China, India or ASEAN?
UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari and Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit in Burma in the fall last yearvětší obrázekZdroj: Reuters
Min Zin writes: No. Gambari's mission is failure. Why? His mandate is basically coming from the UN General Assembly. Not from UN Security Council. So he doesn't have enforcement capacity. His mission is always at the mercy of Burmese regime and its key ally China. Unless his mission was strengthened by UNSC, he will be toothless. In order to get UNSC's official backing, the West needs to work on China.
Without China's coercive persuasion, junta will not make any positive move. But diplomacy alone will not work in pushing China. International public action is needed, especially Olympic is approaching and China has significant sensitivity to its image. For the time being, I don't see any strong/persistent or coordinated efforts in diplomacy and public actions regarding pressing China for acceptable Burmese political transition.
Q: Can I ask you for your opinion about the upcoming elections (in Burma)? And what do you think about Burmese government refusing to invite UN monitors for the ballot?
Q: Min Zin writes: Burmese junta rejected all proposals/suggestions made by UN - 1. To form constitutional review commission to make sure inclusive political process, 2. To form poverty alleviation commission to lessen the humanitarian and economic crisis, 3- (as the regime reused the first two, UN proposed the last one) to allow UN monitor. But the regime rejected all. They excuse that international observers will violate sovereignty. But it is absurd. Instead, the acceptance of international observers will make its standing strong, not weaken in terms o sovereignty.
Burmese soldiers during last September's violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in Rangoon. Various sources put the number of victims of the crackdown between thirty and two hundredvětší obrázekZdroj: Reuters
The constitutional referendum will not be free and fair, and the new election will not be inclusive as Aung san Suu Kyi and the opposition activists will be not allowed to contest. The so-called political roadmap the junta is now implementing is not roadmap to democracy (even not to initial political transition) but to slavery because constitution allow military to stay above the law (e.g. military chief has right to take power legally if he thinks the country is under emergency situation. it means he has rights to stage coup legally.)
Q: Hello, did you see the latest Rambo movie, where the title hero is fighting the Burmese soldiers? What do you think about the movie? I wish you good luck.
Min Zin writes: Yes, I watched the movie. This movie raised considerable level of awareness in the world. But I don't think I am for the Rambo-typed fight. The opposition movement in Burma led by Aung San Suu Kyi is not calling for any violent actions domestically or from international community. They don't even call for the regime change. What they always call for (especially more clear in he Buddhist monks-led protests in last year) is national reconciliation. They call for a meaningful political dialogue in which the democratic opposition, ethnic minority groups and military will sit together for talk and negotiate for the compromise. The opposition always say that military is part of the problem as well as must be part of the solution. We need smooth political transition in Burma.
Road from Rangoon to Beijing is a bloody one, activists point outvětší obrázekAutor: Pavel Vondra
Q: Were you disappointed by the decision of IOC which granted Beijing the right to host this year's Olympic Games? If I'm not mistaken, Beijing is the closest ally the Burmese junta has. Do you believe that the free world should boycot the games, as some activists suggest?
Min Zin writes: Some activists have talked about boycott, but most realize this is not possible as you know that US President is even going to join the Beijing Olympics. But what many of Burmese democracy activists inside and abroad are now calling for is at least you can pledge not to view the opening ceremony of the game on the TV and not buying Olympic merchandise etc. as a demonstration of protest on part of free world against Chinese communist government who supported the regimes in Burma, Sudan and other dictatorial countries.

Burmese activists are now collecting at least 1 millions pledge from the world to make such pledge. Anyway, we will series of democracy and human rights and environmental related protests organized by international advocates and local people and media coverage in this multi-media world. As one journalist said, this Olympic Game is where Lenin will meet YouTube.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Compassionate Confrontation

CULTURE, Irrawaddy Magazine, MARCH, 2008 - VOLUME 16 NO.3

Compassionate Confrontation


For the Buddhist principle of loving-kindness to work in the world of Burmese politics, it must be combined with skillful means

In “The Eight Victories of Buddha,” a Burmese song that extols the Enlightened one’s conquest of ill will and anger through metta, or loving-kindness, we learn how Angulimala, a legendary psychopath of Buddhist lore, was literally stopped in his tracks by compassion.

Angulimala was a ruthless killer who was about to slay his mother to complete his garland of 1,000 fingers (each one taken from a different victim), until the Buddha stepped in to prevent this act of matricide, which would have condemned Angulimala to millennia in hell. Enraged, the mass murderer turned his fury on the Buddha.

Even with his formidable speed, however, Angulimala could not overtake his new nemesis. He ran at him like the madman he was, but still could not catch the Buddha, who simply walked on, calm and serene.

Exhausted and furious at his failure, Angulimala screamed at the Buddha to stop. In a quiet voice, the Buddha told his would-be attacker that he had already stopped—he had stopped killing and harming living beings, and now it was time for him, Angulimala, to do likewise.

Angulimala was so struck by these words that there and then he threw away his weapons and became a disciple of the Buddha.

This dramatic tale is familiar to almost every Burmese Buddhist as an illustration of the power of metta, the first of the four brahma vihara (byama so in Burmese), the “heavenly abodes” or divine states of mind. It is also the most powerful, since it supports the other three—compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

Metta, usually rendered as “loving-kindness” in English, is a strong wish for the well-being and happiness of all living things. A mind with metta is inclusive and nondiscriminatory and has the power to transform any situation. This is what the Buddha taught and exemplified.

As the Burmese monks who participated in last September’s protests demonstrated, metta is not an attitude of passive acquiescence. Metta does not accept evil, but confronts it directly with a force that is its exact opposite.

In times of trouble, the revered Sangha, or community of monks, cannot merely insulate itself from the suffering of ordinary people. The monks who protested in Burma showed that they are not just peace lovers, but peacemakers. They did not stop at praying for the benefit of the Burmese people, but took to the streets to oppose the malice manifested in the exclusionary politics of military domination.

Monks—from Kachin State in the north to Mon State in the south, and from Arakan State in the west to Karen State in the east—chanted the “Metta Sutta”, the discourse on loving-kindness, as they marched through the streets in the thousands. As growing numbers of ordinary citizens joined them, they invoked the words of the Buddha: “May you be free from all danger. May your anger cease. May your heart and mind enjoy peace and serenity.”

Aung San Suu Kyi once observed that without metta, it can be difficult to achieve freedom from fear: “If there is a lack of metta, it may be a lack in yourself or in those around you, so you feel insecure. And insecurity leads to fear.”

And fear, all too often, leads to violence. The regime clearly saw the “metta movement” as a threat to their hold on power and reacted with deadly force, killing dozens of protestors and imprisoning hundreds of others. They even raided several monasteries in their efforts to eradicate the movement.

But the leaders of the movement remain unbowed in spirit. U Gambira, one of the monks who spearheaded last September’s uprising, once told this author that Burma’s monks would continue their struggle to uphold the Dhamma for the sake of the people, no matter what the consequences for themselves. Since then, U Gambira has joined countless others in Burma’s gulag.

Other monks inside Burma have vowed to honor U Gambira’s pledge. Although they realize their movement has lost much of its momentum since the regime’s crackdown, they insist that it remains their duty to bring the ethics of metta back into Burmese politics. Failing to do so, they say, would be a betrayal of the truth of the Dhamma propounded by the Buddha.

Of course, conviction alone will not achieve victory in the struggle between metta and military might. Wisdom is also needed.

The Buddha’s teachings emphasize the need to balance metta with wisdom. Both are essential qualities in a leader, who must make decisions for the benefit of all.

While wisdom identifies the ultimate good towards which we must strive, as well as the means of achieving this goal, metta provides the energizing strength needed to help us realize our highest aspirations.

Buddhists sometimes refer to upaya, or skillful means, when considering which actions to take. This concept is more closely associated with Mahayana Buddhism than with the Theravada tradition which prevails in Burma, but it is also a part of the Burmese cultural lexicon. Under the principle of upaya, a Buddhist practitioner may use any means necessary to help ease people’s suffering and introduce them to the Dhamma.

Although the politics of compassionate confrontation is based on persuasion rather than coercion, the Burmese metta movement may want to apply this principle of upaya, so that when they say to the modern Angulimalas in the military regime, “It is time for you to stop,” they will listen.

Min Zin is a US-based Burmese journalist.