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October 12, 2007
No matter how bad we may have believed the crackdown by government forces on pro-reform demonstrators could have been, reports being smuggled out of Burma this week paint a picture of physical and psychological terror almost too traumatic to be true:
The hidden crackdown is as methodical as it is brutal. First the monks were targeted, then the thousands of ordinary Burmese who joined the demonstrations, those who even applauded or watched, or those merely suspected of anti-government sympathies. And the terror of the night is being used by roving gangs of security forces to keep the populace in line:
"There were about 400 of us in one room. No toilets, no buckets, no water for washing. No beds, no blankets, no soap. Nothing," said a 24-year-old monk who was held for 10 days at the Government Technical Institute, a leafy college in northern Rangoon which is now a prison camp for suspected dissidents. The young man, too frightened to be named, was one of 185 monks taken in a raid on a monastery in the Yankin district of Rangoon on 28 September, two days after government soldiers began attacking street protesters.
"The room was too small for everyone to lie down at once. We took it in turns to sleep. Every night at 8 o'clock we were given a small bowl of rice and a cup of water. But after a few days many of us just couldn't eat. The smell was so bad.
Another Rangoon resident told the aid worker: "We all hear screams at night as they [the police] arrive to drag off a neighbour. We are torn between going to help them and hiding behind our doors. We hide behind our doors. We are ashamed. We are frightened." Clearly, the crackdown continues. And the systematic way in which it is being carried out recalls the worst dictatorships in history who can't seem to be able to get organized enough to feed everyone but who always seem to discover competency when it comes to beating and murdering their opponents.
Burmese intelligence agents are scrutinising photographs and video footage to identify demonstrators and bystanders. They have also arrested the owners of computers which they suspect were used to transmit images and testimonies out of the country. For each story smuggled out to The Independent, someone has risked arrest and imprisonment.
The crackdown has proven even too much for the communist thugs in Beijing (who many observers believe could have stopped the massacres) as they voted with the rest of the Security Council last night to condemn the treatment of dissidents while calling on the Junta to talk with their political opponents.
Too little. Too late. They are going to chisel those two phrases on the UN's headstone when it's gone.